Do This When Shooting Video for the First Time: A Checklist

Just bought a video camera or camcorder and are anxious to get down to shooting your first video? you could do well to go through this checklist to ensure that  your video shooting adventure progresses without a hitch. 

Read Your Manual First 


Are you all excited to shoot your first video without really even bothering to read your video camera or camcorder manual? Resist the temptation. As boring as your camcorder manual may be it’s worth investing your time in it.

Firstly,  you’ll fully begin to appreciate the full power of your  video camera and know what it can do and what it can’t. Secondly, when you need to perform  a function  like for example you want you to use the night shot function, you don’t have to scratch your head figuring out where it is.

I once faced this problem,  when I was trying to shoot a night scene without much lighting since I  couldn’t locate the control for the function, I just gave up. This taught me a good lesson - familiarise yourself with the camcorder manual if you want to do some serious shooting with your camcorder.

Assuming you’ve done that, Let’s get started with how you should go about shooting video for the first time.


Step 1 : Ensure You Have a Fully Charged Battery
The first step is to ensure that your camcorder battery  is fully charged If you’re shooting an important project, you don’t want to run out of battery power halfway through. Have your spare battery also fully charged. Ideally, you should charge your batteries hours in advance so that you can fully concentrate on your shooting.

Step 2 : Set Your White Balance
After switching on your video camera or camcorder and removing the lens cap, press the white balance button. Setting the white balance will ensure that the colours your camcorder capture is well-balanced for the lighting condition you’ll be shooting in. You don’t want any trace of of the three primary colours showing up when you shoot something white.



Press the white balance button and shoot a white piece of paper.

If you’re just using an entry level video camera, you don’t have to worry about setting your white balance, as it will be done automatically for you.

Step 3: Take Care of The Tape
If you’re using a tape-based camcorder, insert a blank tape and  press the rewind button to ensure you’ll be shooting from the starting point of the tape.

Step 4 : Use Manual Focus
Turn off auto focus if your camera comes with manual focus.  Aim your camera at a subject of our interest and press the RECORD/STANDBY button.  At this juncture, avoid the temptation to use the ZOOM button to shoot a distant object. It makes your shots unsteady and drains your battery power fast.

If the image on the viewfinder or LCD is out of focus, adjust the focus ring until you end up with a clear and sharp picture.

Step 5 : Go for  Short Recording
Avoid the temptation to record for a long period of time. Avoid moving your camera from subject to subject at this point. Adopt a disciplined approach. Record a subject for about fve seconds or so. Then STOP and move on to another subject.

Step 6:  Study What You’ve Shot
Fully rewind the tape. Play back the tape to study what you’ve shot.  You’re now ready to watch what you’ve shot. If you’ve read your manual carefully, you would have learnt how you could play your video back.

You have two options to play back what you’ve shot. One is to view your your shots through the viewfinder. If your viewfinder could only display video in black and white, then you would have to view it in an external monitor, if your camcorder does not come with a LCD screen.

Again if you’ve read your manual carefully, you would have learned how you could connect your camcorder to your television monitor There would be video out terminals or AV out. What you would have to do is connect the RCA cables for video and audio to the AV in of your television set.

If your TV has multiple AV in terminals, you would have to switch to the AV terminal you’ve connected the RCA cables with your TV remote.

Also make sure your camcorder is switched to the VTR mode, or the video playback mode. Again this would be explained in your camcorder manual.
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Now press the PLAY button on the camcorder. If you’ve made the proper connections, then
you should see your recorded video on  the TV screen. If you don’t see anything,  refer to your camcorder manual and your television manual for guidance.

Step 7: Learn From What You’ve Shot
If you’re shooting for the first time, you would be disappointed with the result. This is only to be expected. Anyway, the shots are not supposed to be that good. So, don’t compare them with professionally-shot video you see over television.

Take the opportunity to learn as much as possible  from the video you’ve shot fpr the first time. Don’t repeat the same mistakes in the next shoot. Make notes on how you could improve your shots.

Your notes may look something like this:

1) Don’t move from one subject to another quickly. Shoot for your audience. Consider what they would like to see and how long they would prefer to see. As a guide, hold your shots for at least five seconds before moving on to another subject.

2) Don’t zoom. Move closer to the subject instead.

Step 8 : Shoot the Same Subjects Differently
After viewing your shots, you may have ideas to shoot the same subjects differently. You may want to shoot your subjects with different camera angles or open a window to let in more light to illuminate your subjects.

Go ahead and do whatever you think will improve your shots.  Be excited with the good shots you come up with. But don’t be disappointed with the not-so-good ones when you’re shooting video for the first time. Keep shooting with the help of this checklist. The more you shoot, the better your video shooting skills will be in the days to come.