Last Updated on May 28, 2020 by Lou Wheeler
YouTube is now bigger than ever. The platform reaches more 18-34 and 18-49 year-olds than any cable network in the U.S., and one of the more popular genres of videos is, of course, vlogging. As more and more people watch more and more channels and creators, it’s natural to think “Hey, this looks really fun! I want to make a vlog channel!” And while vlogging is, on the surface, pretty straightforward, there are definitely some things that some people don’t know. In this article, we’ll walk you through how to start a vlog. Front to back, soup to nuts, to the window, to the wall. Overall, it’s as easy or complex as you make it, and we’ll break it all down for you.
How to start a vlog (the short TL;DR version):
- Determine what kind of vlog you want to start.
- Choose a great vlog name, or start your personal brand under your own name.
- Get a camera–pretty much any camera will work, but some are better vlogging cameras than others.
- Be consistent with how often you post your vlogs. Pick an upload schedule and stick with it.
- Stay authentic. Your viewers will know if you’re faking it.
- Story, story, story. Even if a vlog isn’t scripted, per se, developing and maintaining strong narratives will help retain your viewers and keep them on the hook for more.
- Don’t be discouraged if growth is slow. These things take time.
- Make what you want to make, but it’s also okay to take criticism and feedback where it’s useful.
- Be engaged with your viewers, especially in the YouTube comments and on Twitter. Make them part of your journey!
- Most importantly, have fun! Don’t get burned out too quickly, and remember that the point is to be creative and have fun!
And now, on with the expanded version!
What is a vlog?
I know that if you’re reading this article, you probably already know what a vlog is, but we’ll cover it anyway. A vlog, simply put, is a combination of video blog. A blog is a combination of web log. A web log is defined as “a website on which one person or group puts new information regularly, often every day”. So through the shortening of a shortening term, basically a vlog is a video series that is updated frequently.
There are no real rules as to what a vlog needs to be about, so you can really cover anything you want. There are tech vloggers, photo/video vloggers, beauty vloggers, lifestyle vloggers, comedy vloggers, you name it. The list is basically endless, but these cover some of the more popular vlog genres out there.
The important part of a vlog, however, is to tell a story. Your story. Whether that is the step by step motions through your day or picking out a three-act narrative (Act 1: Setup – Act 2: Conflict – Act 3: Resolution) like Casey Neistat ascribes to, the key is to provide something useful and engaging to your viewers. If you can bring someone along and make them feel connected to you and your story, you’re on the right path.
The short version is that a vlog is a series of videos that document an ongoing story of sorts. A person’s life, a long project, a particular topic. What you decide to build your vlog around is entirely your choice, but it’s basically a way to bring your viewers along for whatever ride you’re embarking on.
Vlogging is typically more rough, not so polished, and is a bit more intimate than, say, a scripted or more formal video. You’re talking with your audience, not at them. There’s less emphasis on video/audio quality than a typical well-produced video segment, but that’s primarily due to the run-and-gun nature of a lot of vloggers. Some people use a lot of cinematic b-roll to break up their a-roll dialog, whereas others will stick more to the a-roll and more topical b-roll.
But this is definitely changing, with people like
Anyone who sticks with vlogging for a good period of time will end up developing their own style and feel after a while. When starting out it may be useful to try and imitate some things you like from the vloggers you look up to, but only as a learning tool, or training wheels while you find your own voice. Don’t stress about it, just make your content.
Vlog vs blog
This one’s pretty simple. If a vlog is a “video blog”, and a blog is, well, a blog, the difference is that one is video and one isn’t. In my opinion, a vlog can be classified more as entertainment, whereas a blog is more informational these days. This is definitely not any sort of hard and fast rule, but it’s been my observation over the years. Yes, there can be informational videos out there (and there are a LOT), but vlogs tend to aim for bringing the viewer along for the ride, not necessarily teaching them how to do something in detail.
The other aspect of this question of “vlog vs blog” is: Which one should I do? And the answer is: Why not both?
Think about it this way. If you blog, you can definitely vlog about your blogs. Even if it’s just making recap videos, it’s possible. This may be tricky depending on what you blog about, but if it can tie in or be a companion piece, it’s not a bad idea.
The vlog will funnel traffic to the blog, and vice versa. If you vlog you might as well make a blog post about the vlog. You can elaborate on things that were missed, make a tangential blog post relating to a brief mention or after-vlog thought. Or you could just make a transcription of the video into a blog post.
You don’t need to blog if you vlog or vlog if you blog, but they definitely don’t hurt each other and will likely complement the other. Thankfully, learning how to start a blog is pretty similar to learning how to vlog, just in a different–yet complimentary–medium.
Why should I vlog?
Easy. Because you have something to share with the world. Or because you want to get your personal message out there. Or because you want to hold yourself accountable to something. Or because you’re bored and have a ton of free time.
Take your pick. These (and more) are all valid answers. But really, when it comes down to it, you should vlog if you want to vlog. If you find yourself thinking “Hey, these experiences are really cool, maybe someone else will feel the same way!”, there’s your answer.
This is especially true for content creators who already put out regular non-vlog content. Vlogging is a great way to connect with your audience, bring them along through your struggles and success, and form a stronger connection with your viewers. Whether it’s travel vlogs for gigs, behind the scenes (or BTS) vlogs to pull back the curtain on your main content, or just random occurrences that you think your fans will enjoy, it’s more content at (hopefully) lower effort/time levels than your main content.
For those who don’t necessarily have an established audience, don’t worry about it. A vlog is a great way to document your growth as a content creator. It will also give you much-needed practice in front of and behind the camera, as well as in post-production. Who knows, maybe one of your vlogs will gain serious traction for one reason or another, and that can help push your main content.
Committing to a vlog is also useful because of the first word in this sentence: Committing. If you have a vlog that you’re dedicated to maintaining, it will help hold you accountable. It will guarantee that you have something to create.
And creating is key. Not enough other stuff going on to make a vlog interesting? Find something to fulfill that need! Go on an adventure. Make a new friend. Try that new restaurant across town that your friend said you absolutely needed to try. Start work on a piece of content you’ve been meaning to start for months but just haven’t yet.
All of this will help your creative endeavors on both the vlog and main content side of things (if that’s how you roll, of course). But overall, even if you just want to vlog and nothing else, it will give you something to work toward. Making things is amazing.
Why shouldn’t I vlog?
I want to say that there are literally no good reasons not to vlog, but that’s a pretty foolish stance to take, in reality. Even if you think it would be a lot of fun, some things will just make it not practical.
How many other projects do you have going on? If you’re swamped with work, family, more work, and on and on, would you have time to vlog? Maybe filming the vlog, yes. But will you really have time to sit down and edit? While, again, I want to say that this is most likely not the case and you can power through it, I know that’s not always realistic.
Are you thinking that you should vlog, but just really don’t like the idea of it? This is a definite answer then. If you don’t like it, don’t do it. There’s nothing wrong with knowing that it could help your main gig, and just hate the concept of having to vlog despite that knowledge. Even if you forced yourself to do it, your content will definitely come off as not genuine to your viewers. This would be a net loss for your time and productivity, so might as well skip it.
Really though, there aren’t many reasons to not vlog other than literally having zero time or just not liking the idea. So other than that, don’t let anything stop you. Especially gear, but more on that later.
What genres, styles, or types of vlogs are there?
There aren’t really a fully defined group of vlog topics or methods, but that’s sort of the beauty of a vlog. They aren’t typically bound by a bunch of rules or limitations. But there’s definitely some that are more common than others that you may or may not be familiar with.
And yes, some people will call nearly any video on YouTube with a person just talking in it a vlog, but for the sake of this article, we’re going to be somewhat specific. This (definitely not comprehensive) list won’t include straight-up educational/tutorial content, your typical “scripted” content, gamer channels, and some other niches that are sometimes referred to as vlogs.
Lifestyle vlog (and subsequently a lifestyle blog) is a fairly catch-all genre of vlogging. Basically, a lifestyle vlog is an amalgamation of multiple specific niches that may make up a person’s core interests. There could be a mix of fashion, beauty, life hacks, getting organized, photography, you name it.
A lifestyle vlog is really just one person documenting his or her day/week with whatever ideas or projects or errands happen to come across their schedule for that day. There’s no specific format or niche to reign in the content, which is both a good and bad thing.
You can vlog about pretty much anything you want, but that also means that you can easily create a fairly random series of videos which may eventually alienate your viewers who subscribed for what you had initially provided. But usually, as long as you’re staying true to who you are, this doesn’t present too much of a problem.
Overall, the ability to weave your vlog content through many different niches and genres makes this a very popular vlog style, and will probably be the easiest way to ensure you have as much potential content available as possible.
The fashion vlog is pretty straightforward, as it’s about fashion. Whether it’s about what you’ve purchased personally or things you’ve seen elsewhere, it’s still about fashion. Unless a vlogger is approaching this niche as a career (or advanced hobby), most of the time this is rolled into lifestyle vlogs.
Beauty vlogs are, again, often one more facet of a lifestyle vlog, but as a standalone video niche, they’re also pretty popular. You’ll usually find a combination of reviews of various beauty products as well as tutorials on how to apply certain techniques. Many vloggers have started by filming beauty tutorials and have moved up from there into general vlogging or other more varied content.
If you are fortunate enough to travel frequently to some fun locales, you may find yourself vlogging during your trips. Travel vlogs are a great way to share your experiences with others, communicating the exciting parts of your trips better than just photos. Travel vlogs definitely do require a good amount of travel, of course, but if it’s part of your job to go places anyway, might as well take advantage of the trip!
Unfortunately, constant vacationing or travel isn’t in the cards for the majority of us, so this sort of vlog typically is a “special vlog” that occurs within one’s usual vlog series.
Behind the scenes (BTS) vlog
Behind the scenes vlogs aren’t usually a vlog niche on its own, but occasionally can be. If a vlogger’s main channel is more produced content, often they will create a second channel and post vlog content here, mostly behind the scenes vlogs that accompany the main channel content. Philip DeFranco is a great example of this, where they use the Philly D channel as a BTS platform (although this is now augmented with a lot of their Rogue Rocket test content for new in-development shows).
This is a great way of pulling back the curtain for your viewers and letting them see how you create your content, showing more of the inner workings and goings-on that come about to make the content that viewers have come to enjoy. BTS vlogs are a great way to connect more with your viewers and document your process at the same time.
If you are a photographer (or videographer/cinematographer), vlogging about the process of your photography is almost a behind the scenes vlog itself. But it doesn’t necessarily have to be a “second channel” thing, in reality. There are many photographers out there who vlog regularly about their photography, creative process, gear, techniques, and more. Think of this as more of a “photographer’s lifestyle vlog.”
Review and unboxing vlog
Here’s another one that can be as broad or specific as you want it to be. Buy something you like? Unbox and review it! Order something out of curiosity? Bring your viewers on the journey!
YouTube is now one of the first places people look for reviews on products, so this is a pretty popular vlog niche regardless of what you’re actually reviewing. Some people will review anything and everything, others will stick to a certain category–toys, makeup, tech, food, etc.
This is also another category that can be rolled up into another more targeted vlog style, such as lifestyle, photo, tech, or others. I don’t necessarily feel that a review channel is the same as a vlog, but vlogging can definitely include a good number of review videos. If that makes sense.
News (tech/pop culture/gossip) vlog
Vlogs can sometimes cross defining lines of genre, and this is a great example of that. Vlogging about news stories in a variety of topics and categories has proven popular, and there seems to be a new resurgence in topical news shows coming out on YouTube these days.
News/gossip vlogs can be as professional and polished as the general news channel The Philip DeFranco Show or the tech news show Front Page Tech (FTP? Professional? Hah! Nah, jk there, Jern!). They can also be as raw as sitting in front of your webcam and ranting about some dumb stuff that just grinds your gears for five minutes.
While, yes, this does somewhat stretch my definition of “vlogging”, it also technically fits. And if you have opinions about a niche you are passionate about, it could be a great way of getting your ideas out there or informing people about something that they may not have otherwise learned about.
Picking the best vlogging equipment for you
The great part about vlogging is that you don’t necessarily have to focus on gear nearly as much as you would for another type of video series. People do come to expect a certain level of quality from YouTube these days, but will be more forgiving of less than stellar lighting and audio from a vlog.
This is usually because vlogs are very much an on-the-go style of storytelling. You’re out and about running errands, going to gigs, or buzzing around the house completing projects. You can’t always bring around a giant camera, tripod, and lighting, so there’s a trade-off there.
But that’s a good thing, really. The less the gear gets in your way, the more likely you are to just make something fun. And making something fun is what vlogging is about, right?
That said, you still need some gear, so let’s run down what you need, as well as some fun extras. And since we’re gear nerds here, we’re about to get into it pretty deep so let’s go!
Choosing the best vlogging camera for you
This is easily the first thing most people think of buying when starting a vlog, for obvious reasons. There are a few different types of cameras that can be useful for vlogging and there are some features you may or may not want. But there are definitely a few that you will absolutely need for a good vlogging camera:
- Flip out or flip up screen
- Good autofocus
- Microphone input
- Hotshoe mount
The easiest, best vlogging cameras have a flip-out screen. This is preferably a screen that flips out to the side of the camera, and not above or below the camera body. You’ll want this side flip action so that you can still see yourself when you’re either mounted on a tripod (which blocks the flip-down screens) or have a mic or light mounted on top (blocking the flip up screens). There are ways to work around this, however, and will just require an extra piece of gear to mount your accessories.
You will be setting up your framing and exposure using this screen, so you’ll definitely need to see it. You can get away with a top or bottom flip screen, but it will limit some of your flexibility down the road.
Ideally, this screen is also a good touchscreen so you can change your settings without needing to get up and go around to the back of the camera, so keep that in mind as well.
Note: You’ll notice some vloggers using cameras that don’t have a flip-out screen, but instead mount a monitor atop the camera. This is usually done because that camera is so good that adding the extra weight and size of an external monitor is worth the tradeoff for the quality that camera offers. For beginners, I wouldn’t advise going this route, but if you absolutely have to, it’s an option.
Since most vlogs are one-person affairs where you’re running and gunning sometimes, you’ll want a camera with the best autofocus, or AF, you can find. Almost nothing is worse than getting a great take and realizing that the focus was blown the whole time.
Having a consistent, quick, and accurate autofocus system will be crucial to reduce retakes, editing, and generally ensuring quality visual quality.
Typically, Canon’s Dual Pixel Auto Focus (DPAF) is the best available these days. Sony’s new cameras do have great phase detection AF, and the GH5 is an improvement over the GH4, but still is behind the other flagships.
Microphone input/headphone output
There is one constant truth with cameras: Most mics on any camera, regardless of the quality of the camera, are less than stellar. They’ll get the job done for emergencies, a scratch audio track for syncing footage, or safe, consistent environments, but you’re going to need more for your A-roll footage, for sure.
A mic input on your camera is a mandatory requirement, in my book. Whether it’s a hot shoe-mounted shotgun mic, or a lavalier mic clipped onto your shirt, even a $20 Amazon mic will be often better than your camera’s mic. Again, we’ll get into these options later.
Headphone outputs are also useful, but less required for vlogging. They’re helpful when you’re shooting video and you need to monitor the audio levels as you’re shooting. This will pretty much guarantee that you aren’t filming yourself, and more likely an event or something. If you’re filming someone else, acting like a “film crew”, you’ll want it; otherwise, it’s not a deal breaker for single person vlogs.
A hot shoe is the weird metal bracket thingy on top of most cameras. Initially developed as a way of attaching a flash for a photo camera and syncing the triggering and duration of the flash.
These days, especially in the world of DSLR video and whatnot, there are tons of items that will mount on a hot shoe. Most of these don’t have any actual connectivity to the camera, but make use of the mount as a way of just attaching something to a camera for portability (hot shoe mounts that don’t have the metal contacts to electronically interact with another hot shoe device are called cold shoe mounts, just FYI!).
Microphones and lights are the most common devices for video that will slide into a hot shoe, as well as wireless mic receivers, audio preamps, bubble levels, and other random things.
Basically, if you want to mount a shotgun mic or a video light to your camera and not require two hands involved, you’ll want a hot shoe mount on your camera.
Honestly, almost every camera and camera-related device has a tripod mount on the bottom of it, so not really sure why I’m writing this. But just in case, double check!
Clean HDMI out
Not everyone needs this feature, depending on what you’re specifically using your camera for, but it’s important enough to warrant covering it.
Many cameras have an HDMI or mini HDMI output. Not all of them are what is known as a “clean output”. A clean output is one that doesn’t have all the camera graphics on it, like on the back of your camera screen. No shutter speed, ISO, focus brackets, exposure guide, nothing from the overlay is on the output.
The idea behind having a clean HDMI out is that you can connect it to a capture device for direct recording to a computer or some other recorder. This is especially useful for streaming video because the video needs to go from the camera to the computer, which pushes the stream out to the internet. If your output had all the overlay, the footage is basically useless.
Having this clean output is not just for streamers, however. Some YouTubers like to shoot with their camera connected to their computer via a capture device, and the footage is recorded directly onto their computer, eliminating the task of transferring footage from the SD card as well as just eliminating the risk of a failed SD card losing footage. In all honesty, this practice isn’t terribly common but can be useful
Most vloggers will never use the clean output for their purposes, but if you want to do live streams to YouTube and Facebook, you’ll find it necessary at that point.
Best vlogging cameras
Different vloggers will have different needs and preferences for which camera they want to vlog with. Some want something light and small, others need blazing fast autofocus, cinematic image quality and a ton of features.
Basically, there are a lot of options out there, and it’s just a matter of determining what you need, and what you want to spend. So we’ll go through some of the main groups of options and break it all down.
Fortunately, you probably already have a great camera on your smartphone! With not too much extra gear you can put together an excellent iPhone video kit (or Android video kit) to help get some pretty incredible footage.
If you have any of the current flagship phones (flagships are the high end, main phones from manufacturers) such as the Samsung Galaxy S8/S9, Apple iPhone, or Google Pixel 2/2XL, you’ve got an excellent camera, both front and back.
You will run into some issues using your phone, however. Most likely, you’ll want to use your rear camera as it’s usually quite better than the front. This presents a problem for seeing what you’re shooting, so you may end up botching some a-roll shots due to poor framing. But with some practice, you can get pretty good with it. Thankfully, the front camera on most flagship smartphones are super solid and work out quite well for your a-roll.
The upside to using your phone is that you already own it, you’re familiar with it, and the barrier to entry is pretty much nonexistent. There are also a wide variety of accessories out there to help you shoot better mobile video, and we’ll cover that shortly.
Best DSLRs for vlogging
It’s pretty easy to say that today’s amateur cinematography scene is mostly due to the advent of DSLRs that suddenly had video capabilities. The Canon 5DmkII started the arms race in affordable high-quality video, and no one saw it coming until Vincent Laforet’s stunning short film Reverie. Since then, the DSLR form factor is still a strong combatant despite mirrorless and smartphones catching up in the quality department much more quickly than any of us would have guessed at the beginning of this new phase in creator empowerment.
If you’re looking for the best image quality, auto-focus, and overall flexibility, a DSLR will be your best bet. If you’re a baller like Casey Neistat and don’t mind carrying around a giant camera on a Gorillapod, why not, right?
Even before getting to full-frame DSLRs, the sensors are much larger and have better auto-focus mechanisms than most other cameras thanks to the larger housings (this is quickly changing with the modern crop of mirrorless cameras, however). Unfortunately, this does lead to much heavier cameras, and the lenses are also larger and heavier than their mirrorless counterparts.
High video quality–along with a ton of features–will usually be the reasons for choosing a DSLR over a mirrorless system, so be prepared to carry around the extra weight if that’s your priority.
Going hard right off the bat here with Canon’s full-frame, action sports professional behemoth that is the 1DXmkII. Don’t worry, it’s not just you–this camera is a seriously overkill beast for vlogging. This is a serious professional’s professional DSLR for photo and video. And it’s definitely not a “best vlogging camera”.
The 1DXmkII, most noticeably, doesn’t have a fully-articulated flip out screen. Not even a flip-up screen. Or that horrid Sony flip-but-stay-in-place top-down waist-level viewfinder impersonation thing. There’s just the traditional old-school fixed display on the back. Makes vlogging pretty difficult and either you’re shooting blind or you’re adding an external monitor atop an already nearly 3.5lbs (more with a lens) body.
But if you’re brave enough (and baller enough) to work around that glaring issue (and extreme price), what you get is some of the best image quality available in the space. 4k up to 60 fps, 1080p up to 120 fps, and 61 focus points of glorious Dual DIGIC 6+ powered dual-pixel autofocus, including great face tracking.
Yes, this camera is insanely expensive for vlogging. But if you’ve got the means (and the need, let’s be serious) and the arm strength, you can join the Overkill Brigade with the likes of Casey Neistat, Peter McKinnon, and a ton of other “high end” vloggers. Just know what you’re getting yourself into beforehand.
In October 2018 Canon released the EOS R, their first full frame mirrorless camera. This has been a long-awaited camera as users have wanted an answer to the Sony A7III for aquite a while. Despite the EOS R’s initial lackluster response from many online critics, most of those same critics have actually come around to not just enjoy but embrace the EOS R.
As mentioned, the EOS R is a full frame camera which offers a 30.1 megapixel sensor, up to 4K 30p video in 8-bit 4:2:0 internal or 10-bit 4:2:2 clean HDMI out recording, and offers the C-Log recording profile for maximum color grading potential. Unfortunately 120fps is only available in 720p, but that video, even when upscaled to 1080p, actually looks really good.
While 1080p recording does make use of the full frame, the 4K capture does have a 1.7x crop. This may sound unfortunate, but it’s not necessarily a deal-breaker for most people. Vloggers rarely will be shooting in 4K, and cinematographers won’t necessarily be hand-holding a camera back into their faces to necessitate not having that crop factor.
The EOS R is quickly becoming the go-to YouTube camera for a ton of creators because of the flexibility and all-in-one-ness that it offers. You get the high quality of the 1DXmkII, but with a flip out screen and C-Log at the cost of just having no 1080p120.
Also worth a mention, the EOS R does usher in a new Canon lens mount, the R Mount. This is necessary because it’s a mirrorless system that’s meant to work with adapters for EF mount, but the R mount is ridiculously cool.
R mount lenses have an extra ring called a Control Ring, which can be assigned to a one of a number of different controls, such as ISO or exposure compensation. This means you have one less reason to have to look at the buttons if you need to quickly change ISO or whatever you’ve programmed.
There is also a drop-in filter adapter, allowing an ND filter (or other similar filter) to be inserted between the body and lens. Seriously, this is so cool it needs to be adopted by other manufacturers and systems. Like, yesterday.
Honestly, there’s a lot to love about the EOS R. While we didn’t initially include it in our rundown, we’ve come to really admire what this camera has to offer, and is definitely a great addition to any vlogger out there. Maybe not a beginner’s vlogging camera, but a good eventual goal for sure.
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s check out the 6DmkII, the newer–and much smaller and more affordable–baby brother to the 1DXmkII. This camera has the much needed fully articulated screen that the 1D line lacks and automatically jumps this camera into a realistic option for many more people because of it.
Just like the 1DXmkII, the 6DmkII has amazing autofocus thanks to the DIGIC 7 processor, getting that dual pixel autofocus, great color science, and has wifi built in (the 1DXmkII requires an add-on), and is about half the weight as its big brother as well.
The one downside to this camera is the lack of 4k and high frame rates. The 6DmkII caps out at 1080p at 60fps; the only 4K option is an internal 4K timelapse mode. There is also no option for 120fps, which may be a dealbreaker for some vloggers and filmmakers. That said, there’s a lot you can do with 60fps, and if you need more slowness, there’s always Twixtor or some other form of optical flow processing like in Davinci Resolve clip properties.
You’ll find that the 6D Mark II is one of the best vlogging cameras that YouTubers use. If you’re already in the Canon ecosystem and want a high-end video camera that doesn’t cost the equivalent of an older used car, the 6D Mark II is an excellent choice for a premium, modern DSLR vlogging camera with a flip screen.
The next model down from the previous two is the Canon 80D. This is the latest entry in their high-end prosumer line of cameras, although this series has changed considerably over the decades. This is usually the upper ceiling of where the average person will end up, and they present a great value for the money.
The 80D is a crop sensor camera, using the smaller APS-C sensor size as opposed to the “full frame” sensor used on the 1D, 5D, and 6D lines. For photography, this larger sensor makes a huge difference. However with video, thanks to the physics of it all, it actually works out quite well to work with a crop sensor.
The camera is powered by the DIGIC 6 processor and has the same great dual-pixel autofocus as the prior two cameras. It will also accept EF-S lenses due to the 1.6x crop factor on the sensor, which the previous cameras won’t do. This means you can opt for some more affordable lenses where you need to go for the big boys frequently on the full frame cameras.
But you still get 1080p footage at 60fps, the fully articulated screen, built-in wifi, and a slightly lighter body than the 6DmkII thanks to the composite body construction instead of the heavier but more durable magnesium alloy body of the 1D and 6D lines.
Overall, other than feeling a bit cheaper, smaller, and less “pro” in general, the camera is still excellent and makes a great vlogging camera. Very similar image quality and features all for almost half the price of the 6DmkII, you sure can’t beat that.
But what if you need something smaller, cheaper, and still works with your existing collection of Canon lenses you have for a photography-focused, for example? Well, then the Canon SL2 is for you. It’s basically the 80D but shaved down physically in pretty much every way.
In fact, the SL2 looks like mirrorless camera bodies because of how tiny it is. The prism hump is still atop the body, so it’s definitely a DSLR, but how they got all those components crammed in there is a miracle in my book.
The SL2’s 22.3 x 14.9mm sensor size is basically the same as the 80D’s 22.5 x 15mm, the difference being literally negligible. The SL2 has the newer DIGIC 7 processor, same resolution, better ISO range, wifi, and video modes (you’re still capped at 1080p 60fps at 60Mbps).
The differences are where you really start seeing the lower price range show its weaknesses. Yes, basically the same sensor, but a mere 9 AF points as compared to the 45 in the 80D and 6DmkII. The viewfinder is also only 95% coverage, but for vlogging, this doesn’t matter, just photography.
The battery is also a major weakness (relatively speaking), using the smaller LP-E17 batteries instead of the LP-E6N packs that can offer up to twice the battery life even in the larger cameras.
But let us not forget: Where the 80D halved the cost of the 6DmkII, the SL2 more than halves the cost of the 80D. At a much smaller and easily carried form factor, no less.
If budget and/or space are an issue, you can pick up an SL2 for super cheap and be able to get rather great video footage at a fraction of the cost of the flagship cameras. It’s not the best option for everyone, but it’s the best option for someone!
Best mirrorless, Micro Four Thirds, and small form factor cameras for vlogging
In the mid- to late-2000s, manufacturers were releasing smaller cameras that eliminated the mirror and prism mechanism that made traditional DSLRs as big as they are. These mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras (or, MILCs) were able to shrink down to a size that was unheard of while maintaining the majority of quality that DSLRs are capable of.
While the Epson RD-1 was the first mirrorless in 2004 followed by the Leica M in the same year, the mirrorless train really left the station first in 2008 when Panasonic and Olympus launched the Micro Four Thirds system.
Soon, all the major manufacturers had started developing and releasing their own mirrorless mounts and sensors. While these standards weren’t natively compatible, they all featured shorter lens flange distances and sensors about 40-50% smaller than your traditional DSLR. Because of these features, it’s easy to adapt most other lens mounts to a mirrorless body giving you a ridiculously huge selection of technically usable lenses.
Thanks to the small size and flexibility of these cameras, they make excellent vlogging cameras while delivering outstanding quality to rival most DSLRs. Mirrorless cameras are able to shoot in live view without the drawbacks of working around a prism and mirror configuration and have much better electronic viewfinders (EVFs) than they ever have before.
Of course, because of their smaller physical size and shorter flange distances, the sensors are often much smaller than even an APS-C sensor found in a crop sensor body DSLR. Usually, logic dictates that the smaller the sensor, the smaller the pixels, and the lower the quality (hence why everyone is all up on the “full frame” DSLR hype train–totally awesome for photos, but not a requirement in video). Mirrorless sensors can often be more prone to rolling shutter effect as well, although some are much better than others at mitigating this problem.
Current smaller sensors are insanely good though, and can very much rival the larger sensors in quality. APS-C and Super 35 sensor sizes will get stunning video without needing the extra cost of a traditional full-frame sensor (yes, I know technically Super 35 is a “full frame” sensor, but for the sake of argument, we’ll just stick with “full frame=DSLR 35mm equivalent” as our point of reference).
The Sony a7 III is the hottest camera of 2018, hands down. It’s been perpetually sold out for quite a while now and for good reason. It’s the current king of mirrorless cameras, as it pairs 4k footage with great phase detection autofocus thanks to its massive 693 focus points, as well as a host of other great features.
The 4k is capped at 30fps but does shoot 1080p at 120fps. But it does come with S-Log2 and S-Log3 for some great flat shooting profiles. Combined with in-body sensor-shift image stabilization, this makes for one very powerful video camera.
Side note for those who may be interested: The a7 III offers another picture profile called Hybrid Log Gamma, or HLG. When used in place of SLog or some other picture profile, this setting will actually allow you to capture HDR-ready footage, making use of a wider dynamic range and will be displayed on HDR devices properly. Definitely could have some fun with this, but may take a while to get used to–not to mention not even close to everyone has an HDR monitor or phone to watch on.
You’ll find all the normal new features in the a7 III, such as wireless, clean HDMI out, and even USB 3.1 Gen 1 instead of older USB 2.0. But you won’t be getting a fully articulated screen, as this camera still has the typical Sony tilt-up screen.
If you’re looking for a lighter version of the 6DmkII, the Sony a7 III will be the one to buy.
We’ve previously included the Canon M50 as one of the best cameras available for streaming to Facebook Live or YouTube Live, but the real reason this camera is so popular is that it’s nearly a perfect vlogging camera. It’s tiny, super affordable, and has Canon’s killer autofocus–most of the time. Arguably, this is one of the best vlogging cameras with a flip screen.
Yes, this was Canon’s first affordable camera in these ranges that support 4K, however, to do so, you lose the dual-pixel autofocus that makes recent Canon cameras so great for vlogging (and everything else). You also won’t get anything higher than 24fps in 4K, so no silky b-roll in UHD with this lil guy.
But, you do get 1080p at up to 60fps, and if you really need 120fps it’s available at 720p. But even after all of those caveats, this is quickly becoming a go-to vlogging camera because of great color science (as expected from Canon), a proper flip-out screen, 1080p 60fps (better than nothing), and a great small form factor–and the matching price tag.
For the sake of brevity, we’ll be discussing these two cameras together. The GH5 and GH5S are very identical cameras in some ways, but there are definitely reasons for picking up the newer GH5S depending on your needs.
Let’s talk 4K first. Both cameras shoot standard 3840 x 2160 4K at 60fps, but the GH5S can shoot at the cinematic standard DCI resolution of 4096 x 2160 at 60fps whereas the GH5 caps out at 24p. This sort of only matters if you plan on shooting content that belongs on a movie theater screen, long story short.
Sadly, there is no native 1080p 120fps here, with both cameras handling up to 60fps in this resolution. But there is a major benefit to this camera in something other than pixel resolution. Both of these cameras can record and/or output 4:2:2 10-bit color in supported resolutions/framerates.
What this means is better color depth and sensitivity. Where some cameras’ footage may break down when you start correcting or grading aggressively, 4:2:2 has more data to work with than 4:2:0 8-bit color and will allow for more cinematic grades and more creative pushing of your footage.
Both cameras do offer VLog flat profiles, however, it’s only shipping as a default profile on the GH5S–you’ll need to upload the profile to the GH5 yourself. But it’s there, and it works great, especially when paired with shooting in 422.
Granted, if you don’t do much color grading at higher technical levels, this doesn’t matter as much. But it will definitely help your final output even if you don’t take full advantage of the grading leeway. Whether it’s worth losing 120fps or killer autofocus like on the a7 III and especially Canon cameras, that’s up to you.
Back on the high frame rate topic, however, you still have the ability to shoot higher frame rates using Variable Frame Rate options, netting up to 180fps on the GH5 and 240 on the GH5S (going over 200 will result in some crop and more loss of quality, as a heads-up), both in 1080p. Both can go up to 60fps in 4K. VFR will usually result in a hit in bitrate quality of your video, and also will not record audio, so it’s not usually a good default option but it’s there when you need it.
On the subject of autofocus, the GH5/GH5S autofocus is, well, decent. Definitely better than the GH4, but nowhere near the Canon system. But at least you do get a fully articulated screen this time around, another feature added on after the lack of it on the GH4.
The GH5S has massively improved low light performance and is one of the key features that make this camera a worthy alternative to the GH5. But one feature that the GH5S lacks that the GH5 is known for is in-body image stabilization. Unfortunately, this is one of the bigger knocks against the camera for handheld vloggers. Seeing as this was a camera geared more toward serious filmmakers, it’s understandable why it’s removed–pros like to control everything, and image stabilization is better done by gimbals or rigs rather than a floating sensor that may damage your careful framing of a shot. Makes sense, but good to know for vloggers.
Overall, if handheld 1080p footage is your bread and butter, the GH5 makes a great choice. If you need better low light performance, DCI format, phantom power for mics, and don’t mind losing in-body image stabilization, the GH5S is quickly becoming a very powerful filmmaking tool.
In my opinion, the world of compact cameras (if not just all cameras in general) can get a bit overwhelming and overly iterative with the number of models available. The RX100 line is no exception. We received two very odd updates to the line around the middle of the year, and I’m not sure as to why these choices were made.
A quick note about the name. The V in VA or VI is basically “mark five”. So the VI is “mark six”, whereas the VA is “mark five A”. I know, it’s confusing at first, but hey, Sony loves their weird monikers!
That said, these are great little compact photo and video cameras and are easily carried around without needing a ton of extra weight or space. The RX100 VA is an update of the RX100 V in almost every way, mostly bringing processor and small updates carried over from the RX100 VI.
The current versions of the RX100 line all shoot 4k up to 30fps and 1080p up to 120fps. As far as video formats go, they get the job done for non-pro needs, as expected.
The RX100 VI upgraded the focal length from 24-70mm to 24-200mm, which also brings the aperture from f/1.8-2.8 to f/2.8-4.5. Losing on low light options, but gaining almost 5x the zoom.
The VI also has a touchscreen display and now shoots SLog-3 and HLG if you want to play with HDR video.
The VA, however, has the normal 24-70mm zoom lens, the wider aperture, no touchscreen, and no HLG or SLog3, and instead is basically just a more powerful, updated version of the RX100 V.
The one glaring issue with the RX100 line (currently) is that not only they don’t have a headphone port for monitoring audio, they also don’t have a mic port. This is a problem for a lot of vloggers, but not a deal breaker if you don’t mind recording audio on an external recorder (more on that later).
All in all, the RX100 line is a very capable series of cameras. There isn’t a lot differentiating them from one another, and most will have all the features you need, like a flip-up screen, decent low light performance, optical image stabilization, and a small form factor you can take with you anywhere. You can’t go wrong with any of them if this is your desired type of camera.
If you can’t spring for a GH5/GH5S at the moment but would like something reasonably similar for a fair price, the GX8 will get the job done. Yes, it’s an older camera and the GX9 has come out February 2018, but the GX9 (for some unknown reason) ditched the fully articulating screen and opted for a tilt screen. Not even one that tilts up 180 degrees.
For that reason, the GX9 gets skipped in this article (as do others like the Sony a6500 and more) as there isn’t anything particularly special about it that outweighs this missing feature.
So with that, we have the GX8. This series has been a pretty reputable lower cost line of cameras for a while and has been many vloggers’ first camera. In-body image stabilization, a fully articulated screen, 4K up to 30fps and 1080p up to 60fps make for a great reasonably portable camera at an affordable price.
Thankfully, the budget-priced GX8 won’t leave you high and dry when it’s time to upgrade, and it gets you started in the larger world of the Micro Four Thirds ecosystem. When it’s time to upgrade from the GX8 (or any other of these LUMIX cameras) to a GH5 or other MFT body, your lenses move with you.
Overall, the GX8 is a perfectly acceptable intro to the Panasonic line of cameras. Not the best of features, but definitely not the worst, and can be had for a very respectable price.
Best action cameras for vlogging
This is a segment of the camera market that once flourished vigorously almost out of nowhere but now has somewhat faded into utility status. Action cameras–tiny little squares that mount on to almost anything with the right gear–are very useful for some tasks but can be outperformed by other cameras for the more pedestrian shots.
But that’s not to say you shouldn’t count out using one if you need the small size and flexibility that an action camera can provide. They’re everywhere for a reason, after all.
Most action camera manufacturers have multiple cameras in their lineups, but for the sake of simplicity, we’ll just cover the two popular flagship devices at this time. Both have great cameras at lower price points, but these will be the latest and greatest available at the time of writing this guide.
There have been 360 degree cameras and video cameras on the market for a while. Most have been in some sort of ball that you throw or mount somewhere. But the Insta360 ONE X is a refreshingly new take on both functionality and quality of a 360 degree camera, and I think is possibly the coolest camera on the market right now.
With the Insta360 ONE X, you get the ability to shoot great quality 360 footage and then edit that footage in post to include changing the view point, zooming, creating camera pans, and doing all sorts of insane tricks without needing to deal with it in-camera while filming. You just carry the camera around on the pole mount while shooting, and that’s that.
The software will actually remove the pole via creative stitching of the video, making it look like the camera is floating around. It’s not perfect, but it’s insanely good. With the Creator Kit, you get the pole and a handle to attach to the base of the pole to let you swing it around creating a sort of “bullet time” video look. It’s really pretty awesome.
No, it’s not the cheapest camera around, nor is it the best for every day vlogging. But it’s sheer flexibility for post-production editing choices and dead-simple filming operation makes it one of the more useful cameras available. You absolutely need to check this out if you want crazy outdoors shots and to really flex those creative muscles in your vlogs.
The GoPro is the granddaddy of action cameras. People don’t say “Hey, hand me that action camera!”, they say “We should probably use a GoPro for this shot,” even if they don’t own an actual GoPro brand action camera.
The benefits of a GoPro is that they’re tiny, have very few settings to fiddle with, have a wide field of view, and can shoot 4k footage if needed. You can get a mount to put one on almost anything, as well as underwater housings and more.
If you don’t feel like using your phone but also don’t want to lug around a full camera, throw a GoPro on a small tripod. You’ve got a full rig that fits in your pocket.
The GoPro Hero 6 Black can shoot up to 4k 60fps, 1440p at 120fps, and a smooth 240fps at 1080p. It’s waterproof up to 33 feet, has the obligatory wifi and Bluetooth control, and the same dead simple functionality that the line has come to embody.
YI has been making affordable GoPro alternatives for a while now, and have really been stepping up the features for the price. Can’t drop the full cost of a Hero 6 Black? You have a great option with YI.
The 4K+ has pretty much the same shooting options as the GoPro, with 4K up to 60fps, however, the only thing faster at full HD is 1080p 120fps, and you won’t get 240fps until you get down to 720p or lower. Not a deal breaker, but for the price it makes sense.
You can also live stream to a number of platforms with the 4K+, which is a pretty great feature. Technically the GoPro supports it, but not many services, and I’ve seen that the Hero 6 doesn’t even support as many as the old Hero 4 did. Documentation is a bit sketchy on this, but from what I’ve been able to determine, the 4K+ is a better live streaming option, if that’s your game.
Best lights for vlogging
Unlike a full-blown video production, vlogging doesn’t always need extra lighting. If you’re doing a majority of your vlogging in a room without window light or at night, then you’ll need at least a small light or two. Otherwise, you can use diffuse window light or shoot outside. A lot of vloggers’ content is out of the house anyway, so you may not need lights as much as you might think.
That’s not to say that you will never need lights. And if we can be honest for a moment, we love lights, so we’re going to talk about them at length as they are often not understood properly by new video creators.
Until recently (ish), there have been two main types of lights you might see when looking for the right ones for you. There are the traditional softboxes, usually packed with inexpensive CFL bulbs on the low end of the price spectrum and high-end, high output bulb monoblocks on the expensive side.
Nowadays there are also LED light panels, again ranging from very affordable to very not affordable. These LED panels are the new hotness, although not literally. While traditional professional softboxes and monoblocks get real toasty, LED panels stay very manageable and don’t heat up your space as much. They’re also much smaller than even the smaller softboxes and are very popular in smaller shooting spaces as such.
We’ve previously covered techniques of proper lighting in our post about building a better video, so be sure to check that out for some visual guides.
This is one of my personal favorite lights. The Viltrox L132T is a lightweight LED light with full control over brightness and color temperature, covering from 3300K to 5500K. Featuring up to 835 lux brightness and as good as 95 Color Rendering Index (CRI, or how accurately the light emitted allows the colors it illuminates to be viewed), this light packs a massive punch.
The front panel looks like one smooth sheet of plastic, and even when cranked up to full power you don’t really see any hotspots from the LEDs underneath. The light is soft and even (provided it’s close enough to your subject–you know, laws of lighting physics and all that) and will work perfectly either mounted on top of your camera or on a light stand.
The back panel has a power switch, an AC port, a battery socket for standard Sony NP-F batteries, your LED display showing power, battery, and color temperature, along with the knob to control the two settings.
I personally like this light because it’s wider than most small video lights while not being awkwardly tall and throwing your camera off balance. This exaggerated “widescreen” format means that it can easily cover a subject with (what I feel is) better lighting falloff on the sides of that subject. Basically, I feel it gives better wraparound with softer shadows as it falls off.
Because of the size and form factor, you can easily slap this on top of your camera and hand hold the rig without any issues. Lots of output, a bit of heft, and not much of a weird center of gravity makes it a great unique choice. Of course, you can always throw it on a light stand or get a clamp mount if you so desire.
We’ve been using and abusing this light for quite some time now, and it shows no signs of giving up. We think that, for the money, this is one of the best lights you can buy in this size. Viltrox also makes other similar lights in slightly different form factors, such as the more square L116T. In general, we can’t recommend these lights enough, they deserve a spot in your kit.
The Neewer CN-216 is the quintessential video LED light that most people go for first. It’s cheap, small, bright, and fairly flexible. There are several lights in this series with differing numbers of LEDs on the board, so some will be brighter than others.
These older style of video lights are pretty basic in function. On/off, brightness dial, and usually a snap-on diffusion filter as well as what is essentially a snap-on CTO (color temperature orange) filter. Using this 3300K filter will allow you to match the look of interior yellow lights, whereas using the regular diffuser (or none) will run at 5600K for daylight balance.
Most of these style lights will either run on AA batteries or a Sony NP-F battery, and the Neewers typically do both. Hence the flexibility. NP-F died? Slap in some AA batteries and you’re good to go.
I find that these lights don’t create the most flattering light, but they’re fairly small and very portable. They do make nice hair lights or background lights when thrown on a stand. And if one breaks, it’s incredibly cheap to replace.
Moving on up in size we get to these LED panels from GVM. They have a few different sizes and kits, but all are pretty much the same deal. These are not lights to mount on your camera but instead are more studio lights.
All three models have high CRI of around 96-97 or higher along with full control over power and color temp from 2300K to 6800K. They do come with white diffuser panels, although the larger models come with multiple layers to get even softer light.
The main difference between the three lights is the size of the panels and the number of LEDs on each panel. Thankfully, the model number of each light indicates the number of LEDs on the panel–the 672S has 672 LED beads, whereas the 480LS has 480. Super simple.
Also, as long as you’re buying a GVM light panel in this series with an S or LS model number, this indicates that they can be linked together in a master/slave configuration. You can connect multiple panels together and control them all at once, or in groups. There are 12 individual channels, and each channel can support up to 10 lights to be controlled in that group. This is extremely helpful for studio lighting setups or controlling lights that are mounted out of reach.
They either ship with or have optional barn doors (depending on model/kit) so you can help shape the light and control spill where necessary. And interestingly enough, you can slave them together to make studio lighting adjustment super easy.
What they don’t come with, however, are light stands, so you will need to get one separately (unless you buy the full multi-light kits). We have some good suggestions down below as well.
Like I said before, these aren’t lights to sit on top of your camera, so they aren’t the best run-and-gun vlog lighting setup. But if you do a ton of stuff around the house or studio and don’t have room for a big Aputure dome, these will get you great results easily.
Speaking of Aputure, we might as well cover the big daddy of YouTuber lighting, the Aputure 120Dii. This is a monobloc light, meaning that the power source and the bulb are in the same piece of hardware (opposed to a head and pack light, where the power is generated in a pack on the ground with a cable running to just the bulb mount on a stand). And this is definitely a beast of a light.
The 120Dii is an LED light, yes, but closer in form to a professional photography or other commercially used constant light packs. The lighting quality is highly accurate and very consistent while allowing for compatibility standard lighting modifiers through a Bowens mount (Bowens mount is an industry standard mount that many manufacturers support).
Speaking of modifiers, the modifier that makes this light so special is the Aputure Light Dome, which is a large and deep octagonal softbox. The light produced is smooth, gentle, and very controllable. It’s the go-to YouTuber lighting setup for a reason, and it’s because of the look gained with this light and the softbox.
The downside is, of course, the price. The light kit alone (not including the softbox) is about ten times the cost of a GVM 480LS. The quality is well over that ratio of course, but the cost can be a bit prohibitive if you rarely use it, or are just starting out.
You will also need to buy a light stand, however with this size of a rig you’ll want to opt for a heftier C-stand as opposed to a normal tripod-style stand.
That said, if you have the money and space, the Aputure 120Dii and the Light Dome make a formidable lighting rig for a variety of uses.
I like this light a lot. It’s what I would consider a combination of the quality of the smaller Viltrox along with the size of the GVM panels. It’s a very portable, lightweight, simple light panel that just looks good.
If you’re looking for a good travel light, you can’t go wrong with this one. Often referred to as a “flapjack” light, it has basically the same features as the Viltrox and GVM as far as a battery or AC power. It has the smooth diffuse light of the Viltrox, however, it does miss some extra diffusion or spill control that you can get with the GVM.
And even with the SO-28TD being the smallest and most affordable in the FalconEyes line, it’s still over twice the cost of the GVM. And again, doesn’t include a light stand in the single light kit, but you can get away with lighter stands with these lights.
But it does offer a CRI of 95, color temps between 3200-5600K, and has some pretty consistent light output. If you don’t want the bare LEDs of a GVM panel and need just a bigger version of the L132T, this is your next light.
Back to Aputure, although this is quite literally the exact opposite of the 120D/Light Dome combo. The AL-M9 is a small, pocket-sized light that you can take anywhere with you, you know, just in case.
This is definitely a no-frills light. On/off, brightness up/down, has 95 CRI, charges an internal battery via USB, and has a removable hot shoe mount.
Yep… That’s it.
Seriously though, this is a pretty great utility light. You won’t use it for everything. It’s not flattering at all. There are only 9 LEDs all spaced out, so as a key light it will create multiple tiny shadows depending on how it’s used.
But if you need a good small fill, or an accent fill, hair light, background light, just something because it’s better than the nothing that’s there already, it could possibly save your shot.
We feel it’s a bit overpriced for the light you get, but for the quality and form factor, it’s not a bad deal.
This guide was almost posted without this light, as it’s literally brand new. Aputure has released a massively updated version of the AL-M9, called the AL-MX. It’s roughly three times the cost of the AL-M9 but packs some hugely beneficial upgrades.
First, let’s look at the LED array. The AL-MX has upgraded from the paltry 9 LEDs on the AL-M9 on up to a massive 128 bi-color LEDs, all crammed together nice and tight. This leads to a nearly 3x performance increase from 900 lux at 0.3m away up to 2400 lux at the same distance. At the one-meter range that has increased from 80 lux to 200 lux. This means that this light now puts out a serious amount of light in nearly the same form factor.
This is also most likely the cause for the large red heat sink fins on the back, which basically doubles the thickness of the unit over its predecessor. But thankfully this time around there’s a built-in tripod mount, so no more messing around with that mounting bracket.
We also see that the diffusion plastic is spaced further out from the LED array which should help smooth out the light and won’t cause multiple shadows like on the AL-M9. We now also have the ability to control not just brightness but color temperature as well thanks to those bi-color LEDs.
Yes, this light is triple the cost of the original, but if you need more quality–and more quantity–of light in the same compact form factor, this thing is a for sure winner!
Contrary to what you may think, audio is actually more important to video than the video part. If your audio is annoyingly bad, people will often click away regardless of how interested they were in the subject of the video.
And believe it or not, quality microphones that will get the job done can absolutely be had on the cheap. Granted, you still do get what you pay for, but the barrier to entry for quality audio is way low at this point, and no matter what type of mic you need or want, you can find a suitable mic for a wallet-friendly price.
Again, we’ve previously covered the topic of audio in our building a better video article, which goes more in depth on things such as gain control, different types of mics, proximity effects, etc, so be sure to check that out for some practical advice.
Which mic is best for vlogging?
It really depends on what you’re going to be doing. If you know you’re going to be doing a ton of “talking head” sort of videos, just you and a (possibly mostly locked down) camera, you can go with an inexpensive lav mic. If you’re going to be doing a bunch of running and gunning, out in public with multiple people, a shotgun mic may be your best bet. Honestly, both are inexpensive enough you can get away with picking up one of each.
Best shotgun microphones for vlogging
Really, you’re looking at two different types of mics for most vloggers. The easiest of which is a shotgun mic. The shotgun mic is designed to pick up audio directly in front of it while rejecting audio from the sides and rear, using most often a hypercardioid or supercardioid pickup pattern.
Shotgun mics are better at distances than traditional handheld mics because of this pickup pattern, and will effectively amplify whatever it’s pointing at quite easily. It’s great for situations where you’re not the only one talking to the camera, or you need to capture the audio of whatever you’re shooting.
Rode is a very well known microphone manufacturer, and to be honest, you’ll be seeing them quite a bit in this guide. Their Videomic line has been popular for many years now, and their current flagship is the Videomic Pro+.
The Videomic Pro+ brings a lot of improvements to the table. It’s much smaller than the previous Videomic and Videomic Pro, has a redesigned Rycote Lyra shock mount that uses rubberized plastic instead of basically rubber bands. No longer using a 9-volt battery, this mic comes with a rechargeable battery and can also use two AA batteries if that one dies in the field.
On the back, you’ll find all the features, including a power button, power light, 70 or 100hz high pass filter (a high pass filter begins to roll off frequencies below a certain cutoff to help reduce offensive low noises like traffic or low rumblings), and a three-stage gain setting. There is also a “safety track” recorded simultaneously with the main volume track, so that if your main audio track clips and is unusable you have a backup. You know, for safety.
The Pro+ also has a removable cable, and possibly the best feature of all: automatic power-on when the mic is plugged into the camera! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone to shoot video and then realized that the mic wasn’t on. This new feature needs to be on more mics, in my book.
The Videomic Pro+ isn’t the cheapest out there, but it’s definitely one of the more feature-packed mics in the competition.
This mic has gained massive popularity thanks to various tech YouTubers spotlighting the mic as a viable competitor to the Rode mics. The Takstar SGC-598 is essentially a clone of the original Rode Videomic in almost every way.
Just like the Rode Videomic, it’s a larger mic on a rubber band-style shock mount and no removable cable. There’s a non-adjustable 200hz high pass filter, a +10db boost to compensate for weaker camera preamps, and a power switch. Just like the original Videomic, not many frills, but the important stuff is there.
The real value to this mic is the price and the audio quality. The Takstar is is less than half the cost of the original Videomic, and the audio quality is at least as good. Some tests even show the Takstar outperforming the Videomic Pro Plus, depending on what the situation is.
Seriously, this is a really great mic in general, and for the price it’s unbeatable. If you don’t need adjustable high pass filters, don’t have an extremely weak preamp on your camera and don’t need a tiny mic this is one of the best values you’ll find for any vlogger or video creator. Pick up a dead cat windscreen for outdoors work (the mic cover that’s all fluffy, not just foam) and you’ve got a really great vlogging mic.
The VideoMicro is a small form factor shotgun mic that pairs well with smaller DSLRs or mirrorless cameras, as well as smartphones in a grip or mount. There are no controls or features but does come with a dead cat windscreen, lightweight Rycote Lyra shock mount, and a removable audio cable.
This mic is perfect for lightweight vlogging cameras and captures very clean audio with decent lows and present highs. True to the name VideoMicro, the mic is light enough to fit on any sort of rig with which you may be vlogging.
If you like the form factor of the VideoMicro but want to save a bit of cash, popular Chinese manufacturer Boya has a great clone called the BY-MM1.
The build is very close to the VideoMicro, but does show a bit of a lower quality build, but comes with a dead cat windscreen and a removable audio cable thankfully. The shock mount is also very similarly designed.
This is a very well reviewed mic and the audio quality is extremely comparable to the VideoMicro, allowing you to put that savings toward another accessory if you need to.
Working down to the smallest Rode VideoMic, we have the VideoMic Me. This is specifically designed for smartphones, so if you vlog with your phone a lot and don’t want to use some sort of grip, mount, or cage this is a perfect mic for you.
The VideoMic Me has a smaller diaphragm than the other mics, but still captures good clean, balanced audio. Like the others, it comes with a dead cat windscreen and fits most smartphones.
It’s a bit pricey for a smartphone-only mic in my book, but if this is your primary vlogging device it’s a definite buy.
I know, I know, yet another Rode mic. But they’re popular for a reason–for the money, they often provide the best performance and have a great track record. In this spot, we’re looking at a good midrange pro shotgun mic, the NTG2.
Rode’s pro shotgun mics range anywhere from the low $200s to $1000 for a broadcast quality shotgun mic. The NTG2 is a bit below the halfway mark between these and offers some serious silky audio. You could always go up or down in price depending on your budget, but we’ll look at this one as a good average.
This line of mics are all XLR mics that use phantom power–power from your audio interface or mic preamp–however some can use an internal battery if you don’t have phantom power available.
This means that you’ll need to use that battery or a phantom power adapter/preamp in order to connect to your camera, but it’s well worth the extra effort. You’ll also need to adapt the normal XLR connector to the appropriate 3.5mm jack to connect to your phone.
Again, this isn’t necessarily a run-and-gun vlogging mic, but if you do a lot of home or studio vlogging you really can’t beat this mic. These will last you for years, as long as you don’t abuse it terribly.
You will want to get a good mic stand and perhaps a boom arm, and you can use either a dead cat or a blimp for wind diffusion.
Yes, this isn’t a cheap mic, but for a home studio, it’s a solid investment in your production quality. It’s a tool that will follow you through your career for years to come and will not let you down.
Audio-Technica makes great audio equipment, and are well known for their mics and headphones for professional audio applications. Their ATR-6550 is their low-cost option for video content creators.
The mic has a normal and tele pickup pattern, which is useful for various setups. The mic has a permanently attached cable that ends in a 3.5mm TRS plug, so it will need an adapter to a TRRS plug if you want to use it with your phone. It does use a battery for power, and usually comes with a foam windscreen, handle/boom mount, and a hot shoe mount.
If you shoot with DSLRs and DSLMs primarily and don’t need the flexibility of going into a mixer board or audio interface, this is a great mic for the money.
But what if you want a full studio build-out and are on an extreme budget? Enter the VidPro XM-55. This is another 10″ class shotgun mic like the Rode and Audio-Technica models, but at a fraction of the cost. Usually, these are sold in full kits with every accessory you could ever need.
You’ll get both foam and dead cat windscreens, shock mount, regular clip mount, hot shoe mount, handle, XLR cable, XLR to 3.5mm adapter, carrying case, literally everything you need other than a stand and boom arm.
The frequency range is a bit limited at 100hz-16khz, so don’t expect deep lows or airy highs, nor will you get a high pass filter (with a bottom end of 100hz that doesn’t necessarily matter, however).
It’s not the best mic, technically, but it’s insanely affordable and if you’re just starting out or need an inexpensive backup mic you can’t necessarily go wrong.
Best lavalier microphones for vlogging
Lavalier mics (or lapel mics, as some call them) are almost the direct opposite of a shotgun mic. They’re designed usually with an omnidirectional pickup pattern, which allows the mic to pick up sound from all directions, regardless of how it’s angled or pointed.
Because of this, lav mics aren’t really able to be pointed at one source instead of another and instead work by placing in close proximity to their subject (such as, on one’s lapel, get it?). By getting a mic closer to the subject, you can turn down the gain (or volume, basically) of the mic until you hear the intended subject clearly, and other further noises are reduced dramatically if not entirely.
Lav mics in most “professional” environments are usually wireless, with the mic connected via a cable to a belt pack that transmits the signal wirelessly to a receiver; however good packs can run a prohibitively high price to anyone who doesn’t use it for their job.
Thankfully wired lav mics are very inexpensive, and work extremely well. And if you absolutely need a wireless setup, there are more and more “less expensive” models coming out these days and it’s actually pretty practical to save up for a good wireless lav mic pack once you need one.
Yep, back to Rode mics! The smartLav+ is their wired lavalier mic that is geared specifically to smartphone users. The mic cable ends in a 3.5mm TRRS plug (TRRS has three bands, TRS has two) that is compatible with “iOS devices and select Android devices”, but does come with a TRRS to TRS adapter for use with cameras.
The smartLav+ has a decent frequency range of 60hz-18khz, so you will get good lows and some air to the highs, and is, in general, a very reliable mic. It’s not the cheapest lav out there, but it’s definitely a popular choice especially among smartphone users.
After using a wired lav mic for a while, you may get irritated with having a leash, however long it may end up being. Upgrading to a wireless mic system is a very freeing experience and will allow you to roam around your set without tripping and causing damage to your mic, camera, or both.
The RodeLink Wireless Filmmaker system is not a cheap option, but unfortunately, good wireless transmitters rarely are. Rode has an analog FM transmitter set as well as a slightly more expensive digital version.
That subject is a very nuanced one, so we’re not going to go into it now. Digital packs have increased in quality and pro musicians are now finally comfortable with them, but both do present their own pros and cons.
The RodeLink kits come with a transmitter belt pack and a receiver that mounts on a hot shoe. There is a removable lav mic that plugs into the belt pack with a 3.5mm plug, which is a key feature for a wireless lav kit.
You don’t want a permanently connected mic cable that you can’t replace separately from the pack because the cable will break before the pack. Guaranteed. The mic is cheaply replaced, the pack isn’t.
You’ll get a range of up to 100 meters, they pair up with one-touch pairing, and can run off of battery or USB power. Again, it’s not cheap, but just like the NTG-2, it’s a seriously great investment in your video production and, believe it or not, it’s more affordable than most of the competition for this quality.
Movo makes some great affordable options for filmmakers and YouTubers, and the WMIC70 is no exception. This kit is squarely in the middle of their wireless mic range, and we think is a good middle ground for price to performance.
The WMIC70 is less than half the cost of the Rode kit while offering the same range and basic functionality. The mic is removable, the receiver is mountable to cameras, and the kit comes with the adapter cables you need to go to either a camera or a mixer board using XLR.
The frequency response on the included mic is pretty respectable at 35hz-18khz, the packs run on two AA batteries, and you can add on extra packs or buy multi-mic kits if you need several people mic’d up at once.
If you’re on a budget, the Movo kits offer a great price to performance benefit and will be a great improvement over a wired lav mic any day.
The Boya BY-M1 is probably one of the most popular budget lavalier mics out there and with great reason. This mic has great audio quality, has a nice long cable, is extremely affordable, and is one of our favorite lav mics.
The mic has a frequency response of 65hz-18k. Not the best, not the worst. It will capture enough low frequencies to give you a good solid tone, but won’t be overly bassy while still getting some good air in the highs.
It works with both smartphones and DSLRs and other cameras using a 3.5mm TRRS connector at the end of a 20′ cable. It does require a battery for use with devices other than smartphones, and this LR44 button cell battery is included along with a 3.5mm to 1/4″ adapter for connecting to audio mixers and audio interfaces.
The Boya BY-M1 is a no-brainer purchase. It’s insanely affordable and sounds great. Even if you have a wireless system, having one or two of these in your gear kit is a great idea as a backup or second mic if needed. The cable is definitely a bit long for a run-and-gun vlogger, but that’s nothing that some Velcro ties can’t fix. All in all, we can’t suggest them enough.
Gimbals, tripods and other support devices
Hand-holding a camera directly is often not the best option for getting smooth, stable, and usable footage. In general, the heavier the camera rig the smoother the footage. This is thanks to the fact that the physics of a heavier rig counteract the natural instability of your arm, and let’s face it, your arm is anything but stable in most situations.
Best tripods for vlogging
In order to add weight to a camera (especially a smaller mirrorless or smartphone), it’s easy to slap some sort of tripod or mount to your camera. This also helps you set up your camera somewhere so you don’t need to hand-hold, which obviously is the best way to eliminate camera shake.
For DSLRs and larger mirrorless, you’ll want either a full-size tripod or equivalent. For smartphones and lightweight mirrorless cameras you can get away with smaller tripods if you really need to, but still, you want to keep in mind the “weight = stability” aspect.
With higher-end tripods, you’ll notice that often the head (the part the camera goes on and moves around) and the legs (the support portion of a tripod) are sold separately. Most pros have their choice of legs and the head they like to pair with it, depending on weight or use.
While there are multiple kinds of tripod heads, video production usually involves a fluid drag head. Fluid drag heads are best for video, as the movement mechanisms utilize an oil substance to provide resistance and drag which cause the movement of the head to be smooth. These do tend to cost more than ball heads (usually used in photography, and involve no smoothing resistance in the ball joint), but are absolutely necessary for smooth pans and tilts.
Here we’ll look at some kits that include both the head and legs together to keep things as simple as possible. Tripods can get shockingly expensive, but they’re a crucial part of video production if you aren’t handholding, so buying a good one is a must.
What self-respecting guide about vlogging wouldn’t mention the JOBY GorillaPod?? This is arguably the most popular tripod around, and it’s thanks to the widespread adoption by vloggers.
The GorillaPod is a flexible, moldable tabletop tripod. Its name comes from the fact that, like a gorilla, it can grip and hang onto anything. Initially developed for mounting a camera in a tree, pole, or other sorts of items, it has become mainstream due to its bendable shape that makes for a great handheld camera mount.
There are multiple models depending on how heavy of a camera you need to support, with the GorillaPod 3K being their most popular model with support of up to 6.6lbs, or 3kg. There are also 1K and 5K models along with a few other specialty versions.
GorillaPods are easily the most portable and lightweight tripods around and are perfect for vlogging, whether handheld or tabletop. This is a no-brainer option for anyone who is doing more than just studio vlogging.
Manfrotto is one of the longstanding (hah! Get it?) camera accessory manufacturers that people swear by. Their tripods and heads are go-to’s for enthusiasts and pros alike. While they have a ton of different types of legs and heads, we feel that the MVK502AM-1 is a great combination of stability and performance for a reasonable price.
First of all, no, this is not a carbon fiber tripod. Aluminum tripods are a bit heavier but much cheaper for similar stability and weight limits.
The benefit of this set starts with the twin-pole legs. Twin- or tri-pole legs are better with heavier payloads and can provide increased stability.
Second is the 502 series head. The 502 is a very popular fluid drag head that provides great stability with very smooth pans and tilts. Unlike lower quality fluid heads, the 502 doesn’t get stuck produce uneven jittery movements. Look at most enthusiast video creators and they’ll likely have this video head.
For a 15lbs payload or lighter, this kit is a great buy for the money. Yes, it’s probably more money than you’d thought you’d spend on a tripod, but it’s one that will do you well for a very long time to come.
Neewer has a few different tripods and heads, but the one we’re looking at here is the 61″ professional tripod. It looks very similar to the Manfrotto but uses a tri-pole leg design.
The Neewer 61″ fluid kit can support up to 26lbs camera payload, oddly enough more than their “upgraded heavy duty” tripod. We attribute this to the bulkier fluid head on this version as opposed to the lighter 502-style head on the upgraded version.
As with any other “budget” fluid head, it won’t be as perfect as a higher end model. Quality control is more inconsistent with cheaper budget heads, however, most are pretty reliable in general.
Really, what you get with this kit is a decent set of sticks (legs) and a decent fluid head for less than the cost of just a good fluid head. This is a great choice if you need something for occasional use, a somewhat light camera rig, or as a backup/B-camera tripod. It’s a great choice for an affordable tripod that will take a good amount of wear and tear for years.
Most tripods are pretty bulky, especially the two above. For those who need a tripod that’s a bit more portable for frequent trips, a travel tripod is the way to go.
Manfrotto’s Befree Live Carbon Fiber tripod is only three pounds and collapses down to a very stowable size that can be put into a larger bag, or strapped to the outside of a camera bag.
The legs are of the twist-lock variety, the center column raises and lowers, and the head is a compact fluid head with a single collapsible pan arm.
Just like the previous Manfrotto, it’s not the cheapest. But lighter, smaller tripods tend to lose stability and reliability and this one will definitely hold up under pressure.
The Miliboo MUFA Pro tripod kit is a much less expensive alternative to the Manfrottos of the world. Again, the quality of the fluid head is probably less assured in the quality department but provides a very affordable option for a small lightweight tripod.
Even though it’s a bit heavier, being an aluminum build, you definitely can’t get a good carbon fiber rig at this price. Everything folds up nice and compact and has a solid quick release plate.
Again, the reviews do paint a picture of some inconsistencies in QA, but for the price, we feel it’s worth the risk of making use of the return policy. This is definitely a worthy choice for an affordable travel tripod.
Sometimes a tripod is a bit overkill, or you need some mobility while retaining stability. A monopod is a great way of ensuring that you can get a solid shot while not carrying a large, awkward tripod. The Coman KX3232 is a pretty rugged kit that comes with a usable fluid head.
The KX3232 can reach up to 73″ and supports a 13lbs camera rig. It also comes with a mini tripod foot that will allow for some extra stability and camera moves without slipping around.
Monopods can be used for both stability by resting on the ground as well as collapsed and used as a handheld mount, as the added weight will give you more camera stability.
They’re more useful than some people give them credit for, but many video creators never leave without one. The KX3232 is a pretty reliable piece of gear that we have no issues recommending.
Best gimbals for vlogging
Three-axis gimbals are the new fun toy on the scene, finally becoming affordable for anyone to buy. No longer solely for filmmakers of a decently large enough budget, you can get a gimbal for any camera from a GoPro on up to cinema cameras.
A gimbal will stabilize your camera by using motors to adjust the positioning and movement of your camera. Once the camera is balanced properly, the motors constantly analyze the movement of the device and maintain position or assist in panning.
Some gimbals have deep integration into your camera and allow you to control functions from the gimbal controls itself, others are much more simple, and some in between. With these integrations, not all gimbals support all devices, so keep that in mind.
While a gimbal is an amazing device, it’s not always the best option for all scenarios, especially running and gunning or trying to be subtle. They can get excellent smooth footage, but do require a bit of a learning curve and practice. For some situations, you may want a gimbal, and others just slap a Gorillapod on your camera.
DJI’s newest DSLR gimbal, the Ronin S, has been taking the video world by storm since it came out in 2018. A massively improved iteration after the Ronin M, the Ronin S has adopted the current design trend of a single handle design with the three-axis gimbal mechanism up top.
The motors on the Ronin S are very strong and can support cameras as large as the 1DmkII or the C200, which is pretty unbelievable with a one-handed device. The design has also finally been refined to not block the rear screen of your camera so you can actually see what you’re shooting without needing a flip-out screen.
The gimbal has deep integration with a variety of cameras, allowing you to control camera functions and even focus from the gimbal controls. It doesn’t work with all cameras at this point, but it’s still a very new gimbal.
The verdict at the time of writing this is that the Ronin S has dethroned the Zhiyun Crane 2 as the current king of DSLR gimbals, but as the Crane 2 has been out for a while I’m sure they’re working on something to hit back and try to take that spot again.
At this point, we can wholeheartedly recommend the DJI Ronin S as the current best camera gimbal available, as it’s so much better than anything else out there even close to the price.
The Crane 2 is close, but the odd motor shake issue that occasionally occurs is a major factor in not getting our recommendation in light of the Ronin S’s release. It will remain our recommendation until the highly anticipated Zhiyun Crane 3 is released and can be evaluated.
In the world of smartphone gimbals, we love the Zhiyun Smooth 4. It’s a deeply featured gimbal with great stabilization and ease of use.
The Smooth 4 can work with pretty much any phone, and we’ve used it with up to the S8 Plus and the iPhone 8 Plus without any balancing issues. Moving up to the Note 9 may be a stretch–it’ll work, but probably won’t balance entirely neutral unless you add some counterweight.
The battery life is great, and charges over USB-C (Thank you!!) and also offers pass-through charging to your phone. This will require a right-angle cable to plug into your phone, and depending on the size of your phone may cause balancing issues that would reduce battery life due to motor struggle.
The controls are one of the stars of this device. First, you’ll find a big focus wheel for either manually focusing your shot or zooming, depending on which modifier you have engaged. The zoom is a bit stepped on Android but works well on iOS. Focus pulling works quite well on both, depending on the Android being used (no issues on my S8+).
The rest of the controls are very user-friendly and offer direct access to the gimbal features quite easily. There is no joystick for smooth panning and tilting, but it’s hardly missed thanks to the direct control modifiers and the overall responsiveness of the gimbal.
The app, ZY Play, is alright, it gets somewhat frequent updates and has a ton of features. Unfortunately the controls on the gimbal itself only work through the Zhiyun app at the time of writing, but hopefully, that will change as SDKs get sent out to software developers.
We’re personally hoping that it will start working with Filmic Pro soon, which currently only supports the DJI Osmo. As of September 10th, Filmic Pro now supports the Smooth 4! Finally!
— FiLMiC Pro || Firstlight || DoubleTake (@FiLMiCPro) September 6, 2018
Back on target, however, the Smooth 4 is, we believe, the best smartphone gimbal on the market at this moment. The app works better with iOS, but if you’re using another app like Filmic Pro, Open Camera, or others, you can’t go wrong with the Zhiyun Smooth 4.
While we prefer the Smooth 4, the DJI Osmo Mobile 2 is a very, very close runner-up. Depending on your use case, you may even feel it’s a better option.
Both are around the same cost, and the stabilization on the Osmo 2 is not lacking at all. There aren’t as many physical controls as the Smooth 4, but there is a joystick for controlled pans and tilts, however, doesn’t have a focus/zoom wheel.
The standout of the Osmo Mobile 2 is the app. There’s a level of polish and completeness that isn’t available on the Zhiyun app, and it performs equally on iOS and Android.
Even further than that is the integration with Filmic Pro, probably the best video app available on iOS and Android.
At this point, no other hardware has been added into the Filmic Pro app, and hopefully this changes. But for now, if you live and die by the Filmic Pro app and absolutely need that control, perhaps the Osmo Mobile 2 is the choice for you. As mentioned above, Filmic Pro support is no longer a sole reason to buy this gimbal, making the case for the Osmo Mobile 2 a bit more difficult against the more affordable Zhiyun Smooth 4.
Best light stands for vlogging
This is arguably the least exciting type of gear you’ll be looking into, as there’s generally not too much involved with a light stand or other support gear. It’s essential though, as you absolutely need to have your lights mounted to something, or get your microphone close to you just out of frame.
We won’t spend too much time on this, but let’s cover some absolute basic options so you can get started.
If you have a heavy light, flag, or other item and you absolutely, positively need it to stay put safely, the C-stand is the industry standard. These things are beefy and take a beating, and their unique triple leg “turtle” base ensures that they stay upright under situations where a normal inexpensive light stand would fail.
The Avenger stands are some of the more popular equipment out there, and most pro photo and video studios will have these lying around in spades. Yes, they’re a bit pricey, but I know that any Avenger gear I have will last years.
While you can definitely mount heavy lights on these stands, they also can be used for mounting reflectors, flags/gobos, and even sound-dampening carpets along the crossbar. These are one of those items that you buy once and don’t need to replace for years unless there’s a catastrophic disaster.
If there’s a major manufacturer making something for photo/video, chances are Neewer has a more inexpensive version of it. Their take on the venerable C-stand has been a boon to many growing creators, offering stability at substantial savings.
If you’re just starting to build out your production kit and need better stands but don’t quite have the budget for the Avenger gear, the Neewer Pro stands are a great option, getting you two stands for just over the price of one of the Avengers.
Impact has a long track record for quality support gear for photo, video, sound, and more. I’ve been using Impact stands in audio and photo/video for as long as I can remember, and they just always get the job done.
Their heavy-duty stand is great for a studio. It is not a “portable” stand by any means. I have two in my 4-stand carry bag, and while I have no issues carrying that bag around, they do add a bit of weight. But they’re worth the extra heft because they’re reliable for a great price.
These stands are fairly rigid and rarely go anywhere. But the best part is the air-cushioning in the center column. If somehow a knob comes loose, I know it won’t come crashing down on itself, transmitting that violent shock to the light mounted on top. You’d be surprised at how often an assistant loosens a knob during breakdown and isn’t expecting a stand to come rapidly sliding down with the weight of a light on top of it. Thanks, air cushioning!
Overall, they’re not the cheapest. They’re not the strongest. They’re not the most portable, nor the most abuse-proof. But for a studio or a dedicated light stand gear bag, these are some pretty great stands.
The Manfrotto 5001B, on the other hand, is exactly the opposite of the Impact stand (and C-stands, of course). This thing is tiny! It’s also super solid, which is definitely a must.
The 5001B is a 74″ stand that collapses down to just under 19″. Insane, right? This is the perfect light stand to take when you don’t think you’ll need a light stand, don’t have room for one, but know that you’ll still probably end up needing one. I hope that made sense.
Yes, the stand costs the same as the full-size Impact stand above. Yes, the weight limit is about 3.3lbs, so it’s a bit limited, but I wouldn’t expect anything different.
In addition to the sheer portability of this stand, the other great use is as a background light when you need to keep something low to the ground. The light has great use cases not only on the go, but in the studio as well, and you’ll see these in photo studios everywhere. It’s a solid small stand and is worth the purchase for those who need to frequently travel lightly.
Finally, we have the light duty Neewer stands. These are basic stands that are geared toward a payload of 13.6lbs or less. If you need an inexpensive stand just to get started and can’t afford anything more, they’ll work.
Let’s be honest here, these are anything but the most stable stands out there. They work but don’t expect them to withstand regular abuse or to not waver when raised up. These are similar to the stands they include in their square two softbox kit, but use knobs instead of the clips to maintain elevation.
Once you get these stands to about 5.5-6 feet in the air you’ll notice they do wobble more than I would like. Understandable, they’re very inexpensive and use thinner columns than other stands listed here. But for sub-$20 per stand, they’ll get you started.
Don’t use them outside in the wind, don’t load them with a heavy light, make use of sandbags to keep them in place, and you should be good to grab a few of these for your first light stands if you want to keep the spending to a minimum.
Just know that if you buy these, you will be buying better ones later.
Best video editing software for vlogging (the professional/popular standards)
After you’ve shot your raw video, you usually need to then put it all together, edit out the parts you aren’t keeping, clean it up, and get it ready for upload. For that, you need some video editing software.
There are a ton of options out there on every platform, and there is really no “right choice” as it very much comes down to personal preference. Our particular favorite happens to be the free Davinci Resolve (more details below, but that’s not to say it’s far and away better than, say, Premiere Pro.
On Windows, you can use the free Windows Movie Maker (version depends on which version of Windows you have), and Macs have iMovie included, both of which will get the job done.
There are a metric ton of mobile editing apps, and to be honest, they’re a bit hit or miss. There’s Adobe Premiere Clip (Adobe’s new Project Rush is due out very soon!), as well as FilmoraGo, KineMaster, and many others.
I wouldn’t advise using one of these unless you’re away from a computer and really need to get something posted. It’s just much easier to use a desktop app. But I get it. If you don’t have a desktop/laptop (or yours can’t process video playback too well), mobile video editor apps will allow you to get your videos edited and exported for upload.
If you’re on a Mac, you may naturally gravitate to Apple’s Final Cut Pro X. This is a professional (non-linear editor) and is very popular because of its ability to work with large files quite quickly, whereas others may stutter during timeline scrubbing, playback, editing, and exporting.
Even on the old Mac Pro, Final Cut can scream through media, and has a pro-level assortment of features. It’s quite different from other apps in some ways, but it’s been reworked so that if you graduated from iMovie, it will feel very familiar.
The de facto video editor of choice across both Windows and Mac would be Adobe Premiere Pro. One of the industry standards, Premiere Pro is a professional NLE that can handle anything you throw at it.
As part of the Adobe Creative Cloud suite, the app is available in various plans and bundles to which you can subscribe. And if you want to work with motion graphics (complex titles, effects, etc), you’ll also want After Effects to go along with Premiere Pro.
There are a huge amount of free and paid resources out there for Premiere Pro and After Effects in the form of templates, motion graphics presets, title presets. If you can’t find something out there for free, you can hire people to make assets from places like Fiverr, or buy templates from Envato’s marketplace. Creative Cloud subscriptions also come with access to their library of assets as well.
Not often an NLE thought of among casual video editors, Media Composer is an industry standard. Avid Media Composer was the editing suite in most studios and had a strong dominance in Hollywood. They then bought Digidesign, the developers of the venerable ProTools studio recording software, and they had both audio and video locked up tight.
Media Composer is mostly found in production houses and other professional environments and hasn’t really become terribly dominant in the home/consumer space, where Premiere Pro, Sony Vegas, Corel VideoStudio, Pinnacle Studio, CyberLink PowerDirector and others have traditionally thrived.
Best video editing software alternatives for vlogging (strong options against the popular choices)
Video editing software can definitely get a bit pricey, going up to $50/month USD for the full Creative Cloud subscription suite, $299 for Final Cut Pro X, and even Media Composer adopting a subscription model starting at $19.99/month. If you’re looking at how to start a vlog, these prices may seem quite prohibitive.
If you can’t swing any of these, you do have other options. We previously covered these next two apps in our guide to Creative Cloud alternatives, and I like both quite a bit.
My first experience with Davinci Resolve was for color grading a final edit exported out of Premiere, and then round-tripping the graded results back into Premiere. There was no editing functionality at that time. Fast forward a few years, and now Davinci Resolve is a full-featured NLE that can stand toe to toe with Premiere Pro, Final Cut Pro, and the like. I’ve even made it my go-to editor of choice these days.
There are modules for media management, editing, color grading, audio mixing, and delivery of your final product (exporting). Starting in version 15, it now has their motion graphics application, Fusion, built in. This allows you to take a clip from your timeline and directly work on graphics, titles, and compositing without leaving the application. This is a huge timesaver for titling and clever edits and other tricks.
And one of the best parts about Davinci Resolve is that it’s free. There is a studio version if you need higher end professional features (like certain 4k features and noise reduction in the Color tab), but instead of costing thousands like when I used it last, it’s now a mere $300.
All this adds up to a very powerful, professional editing and grading suite that either costs nothing or not much at all, depending on your needs. I’ve recently moved back to Davinci Resolve as my main editor of choice, as for my needs the editing features have me covered and I don’t need to round-trip anything from one app to another for complex grading.
You definitely can’t go wrong with giving Davinci Resolve a try, however, note that with older graphics cards you may not be able to run the app due to CUDA version requirements. Anything from the past few years should be good, and even the Intel integrated graphics as far back as the 5500HD should allow it to launch (it just won’t perform too well on that one).
When I initially canceled my Premiere Pro subscription because I wasn’t using it for a long while, I ended up looking for an editor I could use for just random little projects. HitFilm is the one that I found at that time and ended up working in for a while.
Like Davinci Resolve, HitFilm is a full-fledged NLE, as well as a motion graphics/compositing suite all in one package. You can edit and make your complex graphics without ever leaving the app. It’s free for the base version, and the paid version offers many more features–again, like Davinci Resolve.
I don’t feel that HitFilm feels as “professional” as Davinci Resolve or Premiere Pro, but it’s still extremely powerful. The editor is polished and works well, albeit in the free version it lacks some of the niche tools that users from other platforms may sorely miss.
HitFilm has a fairly quick learning curve to get up and running, and everything mostly makes sense. It runs decently on lower power hardware and will give you a great environment in which to edit your vlogs.
If you’re looking for something a bit less intimidating than any of the flagship NLEs, HitFilm is a great choice and will serve you well for a long while.
Which video editing software is best for vlogging?
All of them, really. Personally, I’m a huge fan of Davinci Resolve because the free version is probably the most powerful and flexible of the bunch, and the upgrade path to the Studio version is ridiculously cheap now.
That said, I also do really love the Adobe Creative Cloud software, Premiere Pro and After Effects make a great team, and Media Encoder is way more useful than most people give it credit.
If you’re just starting out, it doesn’t really matter. Go with the cheaper option–if you stop vlogging or creating videos, no sense in continuing to pay for something you don’t use.
Also, if you have friends who vlog or otherwise edit video and you like their workflow and style, look into what they use and get their advice. Having a support network of experienced peers to help is also a great thing to lean on.
But if I were pressed for an answer for someone looking to start on the cheap, but was serious about continuing video production work, I would suggest Davinci Resolve because of the price, or Adobe Premiere Pro for the vast amount of resources that exist for the platform, such as templates for both Premiere Pro and After Effects.
Vlog editing and pacing
Just shooting footage isn’t enough for a compelling vlog. Your editing needs to tell a story in a way that keeps the viewer enthralled and not bored. This is predominantly a combination of content and pacing and does have a bit of a learning curve.
Typically, a vlog is somewhat quick in pace. Trying to keep the flow smooth without a bunch of dead air, so to speak, is critical to ensuring that the viewer won’t be bored and click out of the video.
When you’re learning how to vlog, you may not have much of a game plan while shooting, or may not know how what you shoot translates to in the edit. But worry not, it’s definitely a learnable skill.
You’ll also want to start thinking about “shooting for the edit”. This means that when you shoot b-roll you’re already planning out ways that this will be cut together in the vlog. Sequencing transitions with certain camera movements in and out of a clip, getting alternate a-roll takes depending on certain editorial choices you may need to decide further down the line, ensuring that you have all the coverage for your planned edit. It’s definitely not second nature to start, but you’ll get there.
You’ll find that you end up using much less of your b-roll than you think, and when you film 5+ seconds of something it may end up only being used for 2 seconds or less. Cutting together the b-roll in a tight fashion, along with editing the dialog to be concise, is what will help give a sort of snap to your videos. We often think of some sequence of cuts as a percussive feel, especially when cutting to the beat of the music in your vlog.
Overall, you want to tell the best story you can in the most smooth and concise manner possible. Editing to music will help with that, but again, it may take a bit of practice before you start getting it down quickly. In general, focus on your narrative and then start tightening up the flow from there.
Upload schedule and video length
With the way the YouTube algorithm has been working (or not working, depending on who you ask), this is a bit of a murky subject, however, a few basic truths have come to be widely accepted as requirements for your upload schedule and length of your videos.
Now, of course, any and all of this information is subject to change with or without anyone knowing it, so this is just based on knowledge at the time of writing this.
What is the best length for a vlog video?
Many have found that the algorithm favors videos at least 10 minutes in length, as these tend to get fed to other users in the Recommended feeds more often. This is usually because it will keep users on the site longer, and contribute to higher watch time for channels. It also helps retention because it’s not too terribly long, and is easily digestible. As a result, creators have noticed that their Adsense revenue does a bit better after that 10-minute mark. That’s the short version.
You can definitely upload longer videos into the 20-30 minute and higher range, and this will absolutely help your watch time. It may also hurt your watch time ratio, as people bail halfway through a video. But if you have a particularly dense or involved topic, 20-30 minute videos often can’t be avoided, and shouldn’t be looked at as terrible. They’re just not typically conducive to a vlog format.
If you aren’t sticking to a real-time sort of daily vlog format you could possibly break your longer 20-30+ content into multiple uploads. Do a part 1, part 2, so on and so forth. You’ve already shot and edited the video, might as well break it into multiple parts and get more uploads out of it.
If you aren’t sure whether you’re going to do this or not, you can always shoot alternate dialog takes to use whether you end up doing a one-shot video or multipart upload. If you get to what might be a stopping point, just make a quick comment saying that you’ll pick up in part 2 or something, and that’s now squared away in case you make that choice in the edit. Magic!
That said, I’ve been noticing a bit of a shift in video durations recently. Many creators are opting to forego the 10-minute mark and instead are hitting around the 6-8 minute range. While this may technically harm your Adsense revenue (theoretically, who knows in actuality as this stuff is all super secret over at YouTube), it naturally lends itself to a higher viewer watch retention rate.
Watch retention rate is the amount of the video that users stick around to watch, as opposed to bailing early. If someone watches 100% of your video, that is 100% watch retention. If someone bails halfway, that will hurt your watch retention rate. Average the two out and you have a 75% watch time retention rate.
This retention score is now one of the major metrics that has been contributing to YouTube placing videos in the Recommended or Up Next locations, as they want to push videos that are very likely to keep the user engaged as long as possible. If you get someone sticking around for 5 minutes out of a 7-minute video, it’s a much higher retention than 5 minutes out of a 10-minute video. As opposed to dragging out a video for the magic 10-minute mark, more and more creators are not worrying about this and posting shorter videos when it makes sense to do so.
What is the best upload schedule for a vlog?
As far as how often to upload, well, this is pretty easy, relatively speaking. Upload. Every. Day. Or, that’s what would technically be the best, according to many YouTubers. But that’s pretty difficult for the majority of people.
Thankfully, you don’t really need to upload every day. As long as you’re being consistent at least one to two days a week, you should be alright. No, you won’t get the same sort of video momentum as if you uploaded every day, but saving your sanity is a decent exchange for that in my book.
Really, the answer should be: upload as often as you can, as consistently as you can, for (maybe) at least 10-minute videos (but maybe a bit less), but not too much longer than 20-30 minutes (if the content is really needing it).
Make money vlogging?
So far, we haven’t really touched the subject of how to make money vlogging, and that’s for a very specific reason. If making money is the singular goal you have while setting out to make a vlog, it’s almost guaranteed not to work.
Everyone wants to be a YouTube vlogger
I’m sure you’re aware that YouTube vloggers are everywhere. You’ve probably gone out to some place or event in your town and you’ve seen the typical YouTube vlogger out and about, talking to their camera, or getting some sweet b-roll. I’m sure you’ve seen it multiple times.
Those are your competition. All around the world, not just in your hometown. Think about just how many vloggers on YouTube that actually works out to be.
We’re not pointing this out to discourage you, please don’t get us wrong! It’s just the fact that YouTubers, in general, don’t automatically start raking in the thousands, hundreds, or even tens of dollars for a very long time. It’s a realistic point of view that all YouTubers and vloggers should be aware of.
Don’t do it just for the money
You’ll need to put in a ton of work, passion, sweat, and effort into your channel in order to start making any reasonable amount of money, so know that going in. Do it for the love of the game, not for the paycheck. The paycheck may follow, it may not. But if you’re having fun making cool stuff, does the paycheck necessarily matter?
That said, let’s say that your passion leads to a growing audience. You will eventually be able to join the YouTube Partner Program once you cross 1000 subscribers and 4000 watch hours in the previous 12 months. Now you can enable Adsense monetization on your videos. You will not make large amounts of money from this unless your videos are cracking a million views per video.
Your better bet is to utilize affiliate marketing links in your video description. These can be to Amazon, B&H Photo, iTunes (just kidding, Apple axed this program during the research and writing of this post), or any other company/program that offers affiliate links in your particular video topics.
If you highlight a product or item in your video, you can always post an affiliate link in the description. This is a fairly common practice among vloggers, and your viewers usually won’t have an issue with this. Just be wise about your implementation and you should have any issues.
For example, we utilize affiliate links to support the site and be able to bring new content and do more reviews. We typically try not to use these links for products we don’t believe in, as to ensure that we’re not putting out bad information.
Eventually, as your audience builds and your authority online grows, you may attract companies that want to sponsor your videos. While this may be very exciting when it first occurs, you should approach this very cautiously.
Once you start accepting sponsors for your videos, you quickly change your perception to your viewers. If you’re accepting literally any sponsor that approaches you, you may be alienating your viewers and coming off as a shill.
Viewers understand that creators need to pay the bills, but there’s a right way and a wrong way to go about it, and using sponsors that aren’t related to your videos or your life make it clear that you care more about money than your viewers. This is a quick way to lose subscribers and authenticity.
You do need to follow certain disclosure and ethics rules around affiliate links, sponsorships, and other forms of income, but it’s not difficult and doesn’t really impact your ability to earn. You just want to always be honest and upfront to your viewers.
Accept pertinent sponsors, don’t affiliate link things that don’t matter, and don’t forget that your audience watches you because you provide value to them. Reread that last part, and keep it burned into your brain.
Always do your best to maintain transparency with your viewers if you are monetizing certain aspects of your vlog. If something feels shady, probably shouldn’t go through with it. If you need to clarify things, err on the side of caution. Provide value to your audience and they will return that value by way of utilizing your links and sponsors.
Now that we’ve covered most of the technical components of vlogging, let’s go over some tips to get you off and running!
- It may sound odd coming after that last bit, but don’t let the technical parts get in the way of telling your story. If all you have is your phone, use it. Vlogging is usually a forgiving genre of content, as long as your story is entertaining.
- Story, story, story! You may not immediately think so, but the best vlogs follow the traditional narrative mechanics, such as setup/conflict/resolution, or even the
- It’s difficult to talk to a camera when you first start. Especially in public with random people all around you, possibly judging you. The key is to not talk to your camera, but your audience through the camera! You’re talking to the viewers on YouTube directly, not a hunk of glass and metal.
- Content is king. If you have a great story to tell, people will enjoy it. That said, some people say…
- Personality over content. Vlog audiences are usually more interested in the person doing the thing rather than the thing the person is doing. Vloggers are the attraction, not the events. That said, I don’t always believe in this and instead feel that…
- Personality is half of content! Let’s be honest, even if someone you really like has a vlog, how often are you going to watch if there’s nothing going on except incessant ramblings? You need both halves to create a great vlog. Show your personality while doing entertaining things.
- Look at your daily routine to find ideas to work into your vlog. Things that are already part of your schedule or are schedule-adjacent are easiest to lock down in a vlog.
- Look at your commute to see what sort of locations you can shoot content in. Do you walk to work? Bike? Boosted board? Drive? What stops can you throw in to shoot, or quick little fun bits can you include in your videos?
- Is your day job one that you can shoot during? If you’re an office worker or retail employee, probably not, and likely will land you in trouble–especially if you work in a secure environment. But if you’re more of a freelancer or participate in what is now being referred to as the “gig economy”, you can get away with quick bits here and there.
- Vlogs often will require planning and effort. Not always, but don’t lose sight of the fact that you will have to work at putting together a fun vlog.
- Collaborate with other local vloggers! If you don’t have friends who vlog, find other vloggers in the area and make some new friends! If your friends vlog, orchestrate collabs with them. Make sure that for the content they provide you on your channel, you’re reciprocating content for their channel.
- Use Twitter and Instagram to find other vloggers and YouTubers! Don’t fangirl/fanboy out on them, of course, but start following people in your area you look to as inspiration or entertainment and join in their conversations. Again, not annoyingly so, but just as one person connecting with another person.
- If you’re going out and doing something (especially if you plan on vlogging it already), announce it on Twitter. If you’ve picked up some new vlogging followers, you may be able to get a good crew out for a fun evening, benefiting everyone’s channel. If not, your followers may see something that interests them and they’ll look out for it on your upcoming vlog.
- Last of all, don’t run yourself into the ground. Don’t do more than you can handle, and start off slowly if you need to. Burnout is a real, serious problem with YouTubers and vloggers, so don’t set some outrageous goal and beat yourself up if you can’t meet that goal. Don’t say “I’m going to start vlogging every day! And also teach myself how to edit at the same time! And also post every day!” There’s no way this can end well.
Vlogging is a fun way of telling your own story in a free-form manner. It opens up a world of possibilities that aren’t available with typical video content creation. It’s not for everyone, but anyone can definitely do it. Whether you’re doing daily vlogs, weekly vlogs, or something like a behind the scenes vlog for a main channel you have the opportunity to share your story in a very personal and intimate setting that you can’t get from typical polished scripted or “main channel” videos.
As you go off and start your new vlog, just remember that you’re telling your story, connecting with your followers, and bringing them along with your journey. Keep them entertained and they’ll stay for the ride.
If you have any questions or comments about anything we’ve covered, please leave a comment down below and we’ll do our best to answer them for you!