How to Use a Video Camera

Basic camcorder shooting tips

What to Know

  • Tip #1: Go easy with the zoom. Constant zooming in and out makes viewers nauseous.
  • Tip #2: Use a tripod. Even your breathe is enough to make the video jerky without one.
  • Tip #3: Shoot extra video. A little extra video that can be edited out is much better than not enough video.

This article includes basic camcorder tips for newcomers to the camcorder.

How to Use a Video Camera: Basic Camcorder Tips

If you've never shot video on a camcorder, creating your first video can be a little intimidating. Many first-time camcorder users make mistakes that make their videos unwatchable. Here are some basic camcorder shooting tips that can help you shoot fantastic videos every time you take out your camcorder.

Watch the Zoom

In general, when you shoot a video you want to limit the amount of time you zoom in and out, but many new camcorder users zoom in and out constantly. Video shot in this manner usually ends up making viewers nauseous from the constant movement. Using the zoom on your camcorder is a good idea, but try to only use it when you need it. A good slow, steady zoom into a subject is also usually much nicer to watch than a quick zoom into a subject.


Most camcorders have both optical and digital zoom. The digital zoom on your camcorder only enlarges the individual pixels in your video rather than getting closer to your subject. The result? Most video shot with a digital zoom looks distorted. If you have a digital zoom on your camcorder, you want to use it as little as possible. You may want to even disable it so you don't accidentally use it while recording. This can drastically increase the quality of your videos.

Bring a Tripod

Chances are you've seen video recorded by someone who didn't have a tripod. Handheld video usually looks great for the first few minutes. Then, as the person recording the video gets tired, the video starts to look worse. You naturally move up and down slightly when you breathe. If you're holding a camcorder, that motion is exaggerated on video and can make it look like you were jumping up and down while holding your camcorder. Along those same lines, if you're shooting a video handheld, you want to make sure the image stabilization on your camcorder in enabled. Image stabilization helps even out the movements your camcorder makes and minimizes shaking in your finished video.

Skip the Special Effects

Most camcorders now come with some effects built-in. While things like wipes and fades can be great in your finished video, it's better to add them in a video editing program after you're done shooting. If you add effects while shooting, you're stuck with them forever. For instance, if you shoot your child's birthday party in black and white, you'll never have the option to watch it in color. If you add the back and white in a video editing program, you can simply remove it if you decide you'd like it in color after all.

Turn on the Lights

Camcorders typically have a difficult time recording video in darker areas. If you have the ability to turn on more lights where you are, do it. The brighter the area you are recording in the better. White balancing your camcorder can also help in different lighting conditions. Consider doing it whenever you change lighting conditions or rooms with your camcorder.

Get a Microphone

Microphone with red background
Darryn van der Walt / Getty Images

Most built-in camcorder microphones are pretty crappy when it comes to recording audio. If you have a place to plug one into your camcorder, consider purchasing a small lavaliere microphone. A lavaliere is a small microphone that clips onto your subject's clothing and it can make your audio sound much better. They can usually be purchased rather inexpensively and are well worth the investment for the audio quality boost.

Shoot Extra Video

In most camcorders, it takes a few seconds to start recording after you press the record button. For that reason, give yourself a second or two after you start recording before a subject starts talking or an event begins. Likewise, give yourself a few seconds after an event ends before you stop recording. It's much better to have too much video and edit out the pieces that you don't want than having too little at the end of the day.

The tips in this article are applicable to any camcorder.

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