These days, pretty much anyone with a phone and a face can start vlogging on platforms like Instagram or YouTube in a matter of minutes. But to really engage an audience over the long haul you need to think about production quality. You don’t have to invest thousands of dollars on professional equipment, but a better vlogging camera and microphone, a stable mount, lighting options and some decent editing software can go a long way towards improving the content you create. Read on for gear that will take your vlogs to the next level.
1What to look for in a vlogging kit
Job number one when shopping for vlogging gear is understanding what you need, which will help inform buying decisions on everything from cameras to green screens. Start by asking yourself these questions:
- Do you shoot most of your vlogs at home or do you need to be mobile?
- Is standard HD/basic image quality sufficient or do audiences for your type of content expect higher resolutions and clearer details?
- Do you mostly shoot by yourself and sit still or do you move about and have guests? (This is key for picking the right mic.)
- Does your lighting need to be varied and/or mobile or can you make do with a simple, flattering ring light?
- Do you have a proper space in which to shoot or do you need to be able to get creative with virtual backgrounds?
- How do you plan to edit your footage?
2Types of cameras
Your biggest spend—and most important decision—is bound to be your camera (or cameras).
For full creative control and maximum flexibility you might opt for a DSLR. If you’re looking for great image quality in a slightly more portable form factor, a mirrorless camera may prove a better fit. If you’re frequently on the move and/or filming your own physical activities, an action camera is likely in order. If, on the other hand, you’re just sitting in front of your computer, a decent—and considerably less expensive—webcam might be all you need.
Let’s dig a little deeper into the benefits of each type of vlogging camera.
DSLRs let users swap lenses, fine-tune a wide range of manual controls and frame scenes with unrivaled accuracy via an optical viewfinder to capture stunningly detailed images with lifelike colours. Short of a studio video camera, this is about as good as it gets in terms of production quality and versatility.
|Interchangeable lenses provide more options—such as wide angle and telephoto—when shooting both yourself and other subjects.||The price—especially if you invest in multiple lenses and accessories—may be prohibitive for buyers on a budget.|
|Large image sensors and high quality glass ensure great results in just about any shooting environment, including bedrooms and offices with low light.||It may be overkill for simpler vlogging needs.|
|A bevy of manual settings lets you dial in on a distinct look and feel for your content.|
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A mirrorless camera—sometimes called a compact system camera—is similar to a DSLR in terms of image quality, but is smaller because it lacks a complex mirror system that reflects light from the lens through an optical viewfinder. Expect to pay roughly the same price as a DSLR.
|Mirrorless cameras are more compact than DSLRs, making them better suited to toss into a bag when vlogging on the go.||Shots are framed onscreen rather than through an optical viewfinder—though this shouldn’t be a big concern for home vloggers.|
|You can swap lenses, add accessories like mics and flashes and adjust manual settings just as you would a DSLR.||Reliance on power-draining displays and electronic viewfinders tends to result in slightly reduced battery life.|
|They typically come equipped with responsive, high-resolution LCDs that are ideal for videography.|
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If your vlog is going to feature extreme sports, daring deeds or a first-person perspective of you on the move, an action camera is the answer. These wee picture poppers are extremely easy to use and provide high video quality and great image stabilization. They’re often ideal for travel bloggers.
|Small, lightweight and easy to use, action cameras can go anywhere and be activated instantly with a tap or two.||Some action cameras don’t have great audio quality.|
|Most action cameras can be controlled remotely, allowing you to frame shots from a device like your phone.||Tinkerers may lament the lack of robust settings to fine tune the look and feel of their shots.|
|They’re extremely durable, capable of surviving weather, tumbles and splashes.|
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The easiest—and least expensive—way for a home-based vlogger to get started is to simply set up a webcam. Just remember not to go too cheap—you’ll need decent resolution (at least 1080p) and preferably an omnidirectional mic for post-worthy clips.
|Price, price, price. These days you can find a good, basic webcam for under $100.||Smaller image sensors and lenses mean you’re sacrificing image quality to spend less.|
|Some webcams come with integrated physical extras such as flexible mounts and privacy covers for when you’re offline.||Chances are you’ll still need to invest in a few extras, such as lighting and potentially an external mic.|
|Features like autofocus and low light correction are designed specifically for capturing you at your desk.|
When you film yourself, chances are you won’t actually have hands on your camera. Whether you’re looking into a lens on your computer at home, setting up for a panoramic background outside or walking down the street, your image quality will be vastly improved if you make use of a mount or gimbal. Here’s a quick breakdown of different types of mounts.
- Tripods: The classic three-legged mount, tripods come in a huge range of shapes and sizes and are a reliable way to ensure you have an adjustable, raised and level platform on which to set up your camera.
- Monopods: Designed for portability and quick setup, monopods have a small footprint–just a single leg–that creates a stable platform in a matter of seconds. They’re great for moving around in crowds and ensuring you don’t miss a fleeting opportunity.
- Stabilizer gimbals: A great way to get steady, professional-looking footage while mobile, gimbals use a mix of motors and sensors to keep the camera level and stable as you scramble about. They can be attached to monopods to ensure nice, smooth camera motion. They’re a must for vloggers capturing themselves in the midst of movement.
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One of the simplest and most dramatic ways to improve the quality of your content is simply to up your lighting game. A camera light will brighten your face and the space around you, plus it’ll add a level of sophistication that shows you take this vlogging thing seriously. The only real question is what sort of lighting you should go with. Let’s figure that out.
- Ring lights: Composed of a series of small lights typically arranged in a circle, ring lights are cheap, effective and easy to use. They’re particularly great for beauty vloggers, providing even coverage of your face and provocative ring reflections in your eyes.
- Softboxes: A softbox is pretty much what it sounds like: A box of light. It can be positioned anywhere around the camera to create the effect you’re looking for, from dramatic single-source lighting shots to full, bright coverage.
- Diffusers: Diffusers are used to quell the harshness of a light source and create a more uniform spread. They can take the form of a shaped panel, sheet or sock. Many LED light sources are already fairly diffuse, so it may not be necessary.
- Umbrellas: Photography umbrellas alter scene lighting, typically either by passing the source light through a translucent fabric to spread it out or reflecting it off the interior for a brighter, more focused glow.
- Camera-mounted lights: These handy camera-mounted lights are relatively small and attach to your camera rather than requiring their own stand, making them ideal for vloggers who tend to shoot alone and on location. They’re not quite as powerful or versatile as some other camera lighting options, but they’re great in a pinch.
It’s easy to forget about sound when working in a visual medium, but a good audio setup can reduce echoes, fight wind noise and bring richness and clarity to voices, making it seem as though the subject is in the room sitting next to you. Here are a few types of common microphones for vlogging.
- USB microphones: USB studio mics generally just sit there and make you look kind of cool, like a radio host. They’re incredibly easy to set up—just place, mount or hang it in front of you—making them a great choice for beginner streamers.
- Shotgun microphones: Characterized by their long tubelike shape, shotgun mics pick up detailed audio within the scene they’re pointed at. They’re used everywhere from conferences to movie sets. Whether mounted to a boom or attached to a camera, all you have to do is aim it in the right direction for great audio.
- Lavalier microphones: Sometimes referred to as clip-ons, lavaliers are small wired or wireless mics useful for capturing the audio of a single subject who may be moving around a lot. Just be aware that they’re tricky to hide under clothes without picking up scratching sounds.
Free video editing software—like iMovie, which comes with every Mac—will let you assemble clips and edit audio tracks and is probably all most rookie vloggers need to get started.
Over time, though, you may want to up your post-production game with colour grading tools, add animations and effects and take full advantage of the possibilities of 4K video. To do that, you may find yourself looking at more sophisticated editing suites. Let’s take a quick look at some of the top vlog editing software available.
- Adobe Premiere Pro is a top notch video editor that fits snugly into the Adobe ecosystem of creative products. It’s extremely robust and takes a while to learn, but once you’re up to speed you’ll be able to edit audio like a pro, insert and adjust transitions with ease, create your own GIFs and do just about anything else you can imagine. Just beware that it has a pricey subscription model.
- Apple Final Cut Pro X is user-friendly. It has an intuitive interface, an enormous range of tools and effects and does a great job organizing files to make them readily accessible when you need them. It has a steep up-front cost, but you’ll use it for years.
- Sony Vegas Pro has a wide range of tools—you can work with everything from 360-degree video to green screen content—as well as a pair of editing modes: one for quick and simple edits, another for more sophisticated post work. Sadly, it’s not available for Macs.
We’ve covered basic vlogging equipment, but there are other bits of shooting gear you may need or want to pick up to enhance your streams. Whether it’s more memory cards to make sure you don’t run out of storage while out and about or a green screen to upgrade your home studio, here are a few more items to keep in mind as you shop.
- Memory cards: Make a note of the memory card type your camera uses and buy an extra. Or two. You don’t want to miss the perfect shot for lack of storage.
- Selfie sticks: Not ready to shell out for a gimbal? A selfie stick is a valid alternative, letting you quickly capture yourself at arm’s distance.
- Cables and adapters: In most cases your camera gear will come with proper cables and adapters, but you may find yourself in situations where your cord’s end doesn’t fit in the hole you need it to. If this happens, do a little research online. Chances are there’s a cable or adapter that can solve this problem and keep you from purchasing a pricey new piece of gear.
- Camera and microphone cases: Hitting the road with your precious vlogging equipment? Be sure to protect it with properly padded cases. The right bags will not only keep your gear safe, but make it easier to lug around, too.
- Portable audio recorders: Sometimes a situation doesn’t lend itself to video, but you still want to capture the conversation (which you can lay over visuals in post-production). You may want to keep an dedicated audio recorder in your bag just in case.
- Green screens: If you really want to get creative in your home studio, a green screen is a must. It’s easy to set up and gives you the power to appear as though you’re anywhere (or perhaps just hide the mess around you).
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Shop More Vlogging Equipment
- Masterclass. Understanding DSLR vs. Mirrorless Cameras: Similarities, Differences, and How to Pick the Right Camera.
- Stoked for Travel. GoPro For Vlogging – The Ultimate Travel Vlog Setup?
- Capture Guide. The 7 Best YouTube Webcams for Vlogging and Streaming.
- Expert Photography. Monopod vs. Tripod: When and Why to Use Which.
- Filmmaking Lifestyle. What Is a Gimbal? Complete Guide To All Things Camera Gimbal.
- SLR Lounge. Ring Light VS Softbox | Which One Is Right For You?
- Juiced Link. Shotgun Mic vs Lavalier Mic: Which is Right for You?
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