Dear friend, if you’ve ever wanted to create your own YouTube channel for photography — here are some practical tips and guidance I will offer you:
First of all, don’t get over-invested into YouTube. Use YouTube as another social media platform to drive people to your own self-owned platform (your website, blog, etc).
The goal isn’t to get a lot of YouTube subscribers. The goal is to create useful, informative, inspirational, or helpful videos that will empower others.
Or if you’re an entrepreneur, you can use YouTube as a platform to have people sign up for your workshops, classes, courses, buy your books, pay for your consulting services, etc.
If you don’t want to read this entire blog post, the basic advice is this: be authentic, be yourself, don’t feel your videos need to be perfect, and have fun. There is a reason why they call it You Tube.
1. Why start a YouTube Channel?
For me, YouTube is a phenomenal platform. You can upload educational videos, sharing your experiences — all for free.
Of course, there is always a hidden catch to “free” — I generally don’t recommend to over-invest in another platform that you don’t own. Why not? Because ultimately, you want to bring people to your own platform (whether that be your own website, blog, etc).
If you over-invest in YouTube, and YouTube is the only channel people can find you, you become a slave to the platform. If you ever want to diversify your content, and not only do videos— you’re screwed.
But regardless, there are many reasons to create a YouTube channel, here are some ideas:
a) You can create informative, educational content:
The great thing about videos is that you can convey information in a more effective way than just text. I love writing and conveying information through text, but there are many downsides.
If you’re a photographer (instructing other photographers), we are mostly visual learners. I personally like to use screen-recording applications (I use Camtasia for the Mac) to record lectures, presentations, or informative content for your viewers.
If you prefer conveying information via videos and audio, YouTube is a great platform for you to utilize.
b) YouTube is one of the world’s most popular search engines
People use Google to search for anything on the web. What is another top-3 website people use to search for things? YouTube.
For me personally, whenever I want to learn how to do (anything) I usually go to YouTube to search. I used YouTube a lot when it came to learning certain computer programs, as well as another other random information.
If you’re building your personal brand, or want to build an online following, many people can find you through YouTube.
c) You can help others
If you feel you have information, content, or videos that can help benefit people — put it on YouTube.
At the moment, YouTube is one of the best places to learn anything— for free. Furthermore, YouTube isn’t going anywhere. I read some recent statistics that in 2016, more people watched YouTube than “regular” TV. This is huge.
I remember when I first started shooting street photography, I was curious how others shot. Therefore I was inspired to do GoPro POV videos to share how I shot street photography. It has helped a lot of people, and I am blessed that others have also started to create their own street photography GoPro POV videos — to share their techniques.
The more we share our secrets and techniques, the more humankind grows as a collective society.
2. How to make videos
When I started my YouTube channel, I had no idea how to make videos. Honestly even now, I still have no idea what I’m doing.
My biggest suggestion: keep it simple. Just use the simplest possible tool to record video. That might mean using your smartphone, your digital camera (with video function), a GoPro, or any other tool.
Sometimes we get too caught up in the details of making videos. We want to professionally edit the video, make it look shiny, and well-polished. My suggestion: focus on making videos that are informative, valuable, and useful. The saying “content is king” is true — the content of your video is more important than how well-edited or “professional” it looks.
Or you can even use the webcam on your laptop to produce videos. As long as whatever you’re sharing is helpful to others, you will gain traction.
3. How to edit videos
For editing videos, use the simplest possible tool. For me, I just use the built-in iMovie application on the mac. It is easy to record webcam videos, to slice and edit down the length of my videos, and make minor audio adjustments (reducing ambient noise, or increasing the volume of my voice).
I would recommend against using professional editing tools (like Final Cut Pro or Adobe Premier) when you’re starting off. You will get too bogged down in the details of editing, instead of producing videos.
4. Videos don’t need to be perfect
Honestly, when you’re starting off your YouTube channel— focus on quantity rather than quality.
A lot of us have perfectionist tendencies. We don’t want to share or upload something until it is 100% perfect. But the problem is nothing will ever be 100% perfect. And a lot of our hesitancies starting anything entrepreneurial is we are afraid of failure, negative feedback, or criticism. And the sad thing is there are a lot of trolls on YouTube.
My practical suggestion: make a video which is 80% “good enough” in your eyes, and just upload it.
5. What kind of videos should I make?
In terms of what kind of video to make, make a video that you wish you would see.
Scratch your own itch.
For example, when I started shooting street photography, I wanted to learn how other people shot street photography. But I couldn’t find anything. So I started to make videos which I wish I could see.
What are some personal needs or wants you had in your photography when you started off? Or even now?
- How to shoot (x) type of photography
- Technical tips, settings, for (x) camera
- Inspirational information, tips, or education for photography (how to take better photos, photography technique, or what to photograph)
- The history of photography
- Reviews of photography books, cameras, or lenses
- Reviews of shooting photography in a certain city abroad (sharing your experiences shooting photography in Japan, Korea, India, America, France, South Africa, etc)
6. But isn’t YouTube too crowded?
Today is the best day to start your own YouTube channel, and start making videos.
The pie for the photography market is expanding. More and more people are getting into photography, as everyone has a smartphone nowadays. Not only that, but YouTube viewership is going up.
My suggestion: start with a small niche, then build your way up.
For example, don’t just start off making general photography advice, or you will be lost in the millions of videos about general photography. Start small.
For me, that meant focusing on just street photography.
If your passion is street photography, think of how you can go “micro-niche.” For example, within the niche of street photography, focus on “travel” street photography, or “street portrait” photography, or “personal” street photography or whatever.
Create videos in an area which isn’t crowded. When you’re starting off, seek to be a big fish in a small pond. Then as you build your viewership and popularity, you can continue to expand outwards.
7. Titles and keywords
I think keywords in YouTube is overrated. Tags won’t help that much either.
My practical suggestion: focus on making good titles. Make sure whatever “keyword” you want to focus on is included in your title.
For example, if you’re reviewing a certain camera for street photography, make sure you have the words “street photography” in the title of your video.
Or if you’re giving travel photography tips, make sure you have the keywords “travel photography” in your title.
People make the wrong mistake of trying to “spam” keywords and tags, thinking that the more keywords and tags they add to their video, the more likely it is to be discovered. In my personal experience, keywords and tags don’t help that much. Having good, interesting, or catchy titles have been the most helpful.
The best way to study how to create good titles is to think about offering value to your viewer. For me, I like to create educational videos, so I make sure to have the words: “How to” in a lot of my videos.
Or you can create a “curiosity gap” — make your viewer curious to watch your video. For example, “The one underrated tip to great travel photography.” If I saw a title like that, I would definitely click the video. The criticism of exploiting the “curiosity gap” is that it is “click-baity.” But if you create a good title that causes people to click on the video, and your information is actually valuable, you’ve created value. The worst thing to do is to create a catchy headline or title, have someone click on it, and have them regret watching your video.
Once again, focus on making videos that are useful, create value, and uplifting, or inspirational to your viewer.
8. Ignore negative comments
If you gain any sort of success or traction on your YouTube channel, you will get trolls and “haters.”
My suggestion: don’t waste your mental energy how to respond to the haters. Don’t even block them or delete their comments.
Just listen to the positive feedback you get from your “true fans” — people who believe in what you’re doing and your message.
Also funny enough, once you start getting “haters” on your videos— that is when you’re starting to get some “success.” If you are a nobody, nobody will hate on you. If you start to become a somebody, people will find reasons to hate on you.
9. Don’t force it
Don’t make YouTube feel like a job for you. Only create videos that you’re personally passionate about, or videos you have fun making.
I used to feel guilty for not always uploading videos, but I’ve become more Zen about it. I only create videos and upload videos now when I feel like it. This way your videos will be more authentic, less forced, and made with passion and love.
You cannot fake enthusiasm, especially when it comes to videos.
10. Have fun
The last tip about making a YouTube channel or videos: have fun. Don’t take yourself too seriously.
Be authentic. Be yourself. Don’t try to be like any other YouTuber you see. Show your own personal flaws, your own personal character.
People crave authenticity. Often the less polished and professional your videos are — the more “real” they will be.
Think of the success of reality TV. We crave what isn’t photoshopped, or fake.
So don’t polish yourself. Curse. Share what is really on your mind. Be opinionated. Have fun. Connect with your community, and create what you want to see.