Budget Videography Tips for Creating Stock Footage

Budget Videography Tips - Horses Running

Shooting high-quality footage doesn’t have to drain your wallet. Try these expert-approved budget videography tips on your next shoot.

For creatives interested in starting to make footage clips, one of the biggest deterrents is often the intimidating costs of equipment and production. We get it—it can be overwhelming when you first find out about the long list of gear many professionals use. While there’s certainly no shortage of expensive camera gear out there, there are also plenty of cheaper routes that achieve the same movie-like videos.

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As some of our pro videographers will share in the following article, production costs really don’t have to be so scary. Whether you’re experienced in the field or looking to try video for the first time, these budget videography tips can greatly improve the quality of your footage.

Budget Videography Tips for Creating Stock Footage — Farmer Picking Oranges
Frame from footage clip by Kev Klopper

Budget Videography Tips
Pro Tip #1: Use any camera you can

It might seem like all of the pros use professional-grade cameras that weigh five pounds or more, but that’s not the case. Filmmakers use the more affordable DSLRs for their work too. In fact, these more affordable cameras often are their first choice.

“A simple little kit is sometimes all you need because you can carry it with you all day long and shoot the moments you least expected to shoot,” Shutterstock footage contributor Luuk de Kok said.

Budget Videography Tips for Creating Stock Footage — Woman on Ice Mountain
Frame from footage clip by Luuk de Kok

When hiking through Iceland, de Kok used only his DSLR camera and a single 18-35mm lens. De Kok said he usually sticks with this kit when shooting on vacation, as there’s no way he could lug around a larger cinematographic camera all day.

Regardless, as de Kok said, “the best camera is the one you have with you.” So, don’t preoccupy yourself as much with buying the best camera body. Instead, focus on how you can capture the best moments.

Budget Videography Tips for Creating Stock Footage — Women Dancing
Frame from footage clip by Filipe Frazao
Pro Tip #2: DIY your lighting setup

Studio-grade lights can cost thousands of dollars apiece, adding up quickly. For many videographers, especially those who work part-time or are just starting out, a full lighting kit isn’t in the budget. Luckily though, you can go a long way with a few affordable, everyday items.

A great substitution for a hot light is a run-of-the-mill metal desk lamp. The ones with a metal hood around the bulb and a bendable arm are perfect for lighting a subject. A pro tip is to put a non-flammable diffuser in front to soften and diffuse the light. Parchment paper is a great for this. Whether you use this as your key light, the main light source, or in addition to a professional light, it’s an easy way to brighten your subject or background.

Budget Videography Tips for Creating Stock Footage —Urban Street Crossing
Frame from footage clip by Aerial Photo Video

As a second light on set, another effective replacement for fill lighting is by using a Chinese paper lantern. This option costs no more than a couple dollars online or at department stores and is easily movable. A lantern is surrounded by white paper, so there’s no need to use your own diffuser. Chinese lanterns provide a soft light that’s perfect for warmer, natural-looking scenes and portraits.

A different light bulb can make a huge difference

Additionally, you can buy different types of light bulbs to achieve different lighting effects. While Tungsten is usually the go-to for all-around lighting, investing in a range of bulbs is an easy way to make the scene cool- or warm-toned, or adjust brightness.

To create a colored tint on set, skip the expensive gel bulbs and instead spray paint your own light bulbs. Just make sure to use high heat paint, which is inflammable. A single can goes a long way and there’s a range of colors to choose from!

Budget Videography Tips for Creating Stock Footage — Temple at Sunset
Frame from footage clip by Aerial Photo Video
Pro Tip #3: Make the most out of your key light

On the average set, you’ll usually find a key light, which is the main source of light and is directed at your subject. Then, there’s the fill light that’s placed behind your subject and used to brighten the background. Rather than putting all your money into both a key light and fill light though, try getting the most out of the key light as you possibly can.

With a reflector placed opposite the key light, you can just as effectively reduce shadows in the background and on the edges of subjects. Plus, reflectors can easily be made from various everyday items, making them significantly cheaper than a second studio light.

Budget Videography Tips for Creating Stock Footage — Running Sheep
Frame from footage clip by Alix Millet
Why should you use a reflector?

The job of a reflector is to bounce light back at your subject, making it appear as if its a light in itself. This is best done with a solid bright white, shiny, or metallic surface. Many professionals use white foam core boards, the kind you might do a science project on and that can be found in most convenience and art stores. Other options are aluminum foil, mirrors, white cardboard, and even just an extra bright white wall. And the best part about these substitutions is that they work just as well as the studio-grade ones online.

Footage contributor Alex Millet says his favorite way to light a scene though is with natural light. “The best show is outdoors,” Millet said. “You don’t need anything fancy.”

Budget Videography Tips for Creating Stock Footage — Kids Playing in Field
Frame from footage clip by Monkey Business Images

And it’s true. If you’re shooting inside, opening a window that gets lots of sunlight can do a whole lot for your scene. If you only have one professional light, then it’d work in your favor to try and shoot when you know the sun will enter a room.

Surprisingly, another tool Alix Millet uses when shooting with lots of natural light is glass perfume bottles. Millet holds the bottles just off-camera and where the sun rays hit it, creating beautiful light flares in the video. Just about any size mirror or another glass prism will achieve this effect that can add a unique twist to your footage.

Pro Tip #4: Affordable stabilizing tricks for your footage
Budget Videography Tips for Creating Stock Footage — Hong Kong in Foggy Sunset
Frame from footage clip by Aerial Photo Video

Avoiding shakiness is important when creating stock footage that sells, but camera stabilizers, like gimbals and mounts, can easily run you hundreds and even thousands of dollars. Various other items and tricks can help you to shoot footage just as smoothly though.

Use a tripod

If you have access to a tripod, that’s the most efficient replacement and is still much cheaper than professional stabilizers. First, secure your camera to the top of the tripod as you normally would. Make sure it’s screwed in tight. Then, grab the tripod by the center pole and hold it with your arm extended out completely. Make sure you’re grabbing the pole in the lower-middle area, as this provides a more stable footage than planting your hand closer to the camera.

Budget Videography Tips for Creating Stock Footage — Freckled Woman in Rainforest
Frame from footage clip by wavebreakmedia

For a more compact, on-the-go stabilizer, another great trick is using your camera strap. By placing the strap around your neck and extending your arms out completely, your videos can create more smooth turns and transitions. The key is to make sure the strap is pulled taught, as it’s the resistance that stabilizes the camera in your hands.

While a seemingly small issue, a lot of beginning videographers don’t realize the smoothness of your footage can really make or break it. So, do your best to avoid any camera shake—unless, of course, it’s essential to the scene you’re trying to portray.

With these budget tips in mind, the world of videography can be accessible to anyone. Try some of these tricks next time you pick up your camera to create smooth, high-quality footage that sells. Not a contributor yet? Click here to get started.

Featured image by Spotmatik LTD

Looking for more pro tips for shooting stock footage? Check out these articles:

Cinematography Tips: 10 Things Beginners Need to Know About Lighting
How to Add Cinematic Effects to Your Project with Shutterstock Elements
10 Types of Shots and Angles Every Filmmaker Should Know
Artist Series with Surf Photographer Marcus Paladino
How to Build A Super-Bright DIY LED Balloon Light

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