YouTube Tips for Artists
For the past few years, I have been sharing what it is like to be an independent artist in the form of video on my YouTube channel. I’ve found that it is an incredibly powerful platform to be on. Today I’m going to share with you some tips and strategies for artists that you can apply to your YouTube channel.
Before we dive in too deep, I want you to take a step back and examine your goals and intentions. From these, you will be able to create what I call “Content Buckets”, or groups of themed videos that will help shape the content of your channel. As an example, content buckets for my channel include “Behind the Scenes/Vlogs”, “How To & Reviews”, and “Timelapse”.
When you’re just starting out, these will probably change but often we have a general feel for what we enjoy to get started.
Yes, you are “an artist on YouTube” but there are so many different variations to this very broad category. Not only will narrower categories around your content help you to stand out as a cohesive brand it will also help you create even more content by giving you some structure to brainstorm new ideas in.
Here are some questions to help you think about what kind of “content buckets” you would like to create.
Do you enjoy creating educational content or demonstrating certain ways of working with a tool or medium?
Does making content that shares more of behind the scenes excite you?
Do you already create video content on Twitch that you want to repurpose?
How much time do you want to dedicate to lengthy video editing?
Are you comfortable being on camera?
Do you want to dive deep into the back story of why you create the work that you do?
Do you create a lot of artwork about a specific topic that has a larger group or people are interested in as well? (dragons, gaming, spiritual themes, Children’s illustration or publishing, etc.)
Take a look at some of your favorite content creators for even more ideas.
If you don’t have a good idea try making some of these kinds of videos to see what you enjoy and go from there. Regardless of what themes you decide, your channel should be a balance of content that brings in a new audience and also deepens the relationship with an existing one. This kind of content will not necessarily be the same for both. Remember to create videos that are “searchable” as well as entertaining.
Don’t let this section scare you. Often people feel ill-equipped (ha, pun intended) to start a YouTube channel because they lack fancy equipment and I’m here to encourage you with some tips to just start with what you have already.
Shoot with what you have: An iPhone, or any phone with a decent camera is the perfect place to start. A smartphone has many benefits for artists. They are easy to mount over areas that you are working on and can be charged while you’re recording for longer video sessions like time-lapses. The most inexpensive setup is a phone that you already own and a small Gorillapod mount.
Filming time limits: Problems with DSLRs for artists I’ve frequently found is how long the camera can film for in one session before the camera overheats or reaches its filming limit. Keep this in mind if you are shopping for a new camera.
One workaround is to shoot only timelapse footage if your camera offers this setting. This will help keep your video file size down and means the camera can stay on and won’t overheat from continued use.
Newer cameras like some from Sony have addressed this problem and have no limit on recording time (the mirrorless Sony A6400 for example, does not shut off until it’s the battery is exhausted).
Multi-battery packs help offset the need to replace batteries when filming as well. I’ve never needed them but they are an option if you shoot for an extremely long time.
For top-down time-lapses, I use a GoPro because it is lightweight and has a timelapse setting within it. Many don’t know that the field of view on a GoPro doesn’t need to be set to a wide-angle and depending on the model offer other less distorted settings.
Often artists use voiceovers in their videos and you don’t need any fancy equipment to do so. I’ve recorded audio straight from my voice memos app on my iPhone and even now, my Bluetooth Rode Mic Go Wireless hooks up to my iPhone for recording as well. It’s a handy recording device already in your pocket.
Lighting can be tough on camera and as an artist, it can mean the difference of people not being able to enjoy the process you’re sharing to create your artwork. Thankfully you most likely already have a set of lamps for painting with that will work just fine. If you don’t a simple lighting setup like this one will help offset any shadows you might cast onto your workspace.
Getting the shot
Problems with shaky footage can be easily fixed by just putting your camera down on a solid surface. Frequently I’ve found cameras will wobble a lot if you mount them to the same work area that you are painting on. I suggest mounting your camera to something beside or above where you work so that it isn’t in contact and can’t wobble when you’re erasing or going all-in on blending paint.
That perfect angle
The “top-down” shot is a hard one to get and I’ve seen numerous ways to get it depending on what kind of equipment you own and the look you’re going for.
Here are some options that might work for you:
Place a tripod beside you on the floor and film over one shoulder. This works well if you work at an angle and not flat on a table.
A tripod placed on a flat desk, if you have enough space, can also be secured to a piece of furniture.
A wall bracket to mount your camera to the wall.
A mic stand or boom arm. These can take up a bit more space but are my preference. When looking at what professional videographers use for getting their heavy equipment up high and over something this is the way to go.
For lighter weight cameras/phones/GoPro's
Bendy clamps or microphone arms do well for holding your camera at various crazy angles. I use both in different situations.
A GoPro mounted to your body for urban sketching.
Getting comfortable on camera
Don’t let the fear of being on camera keep you from making videos. Every single person that started a YouTube channel had terribly awkward videos starting out. Just start. And then curate as needed and keep going.
Speak to the camera like it’s a person you are free to be yourself around. Make eye contact with the lens and just relax. Remember that you are not making a video for a crowd of a thousand people. You’re making it for a single viewer.
When stumbling, pause & start over.
When recording, don’t be afraid to make mistakes and if you do fumble over your words take a breath and pause and then start again. Not only will this help you restructure your thoughts and omit more “umms” but the audio file on the recorded timeline will show a flat line of silence, indicating that you took a break and can crop there. This makes for speedier editing.
When starting out, simple edits are the best for a quick and easy workflow. There are a host of options out there for video editing programs. I recommend not making things super fancy early on because making YouTube videos can become overwhelming.
If you’ve reached a point where you’re editing your own videos and have a rhythm going but are finding it hard to take the time to edit, I recommend looking into working with a video editor. You’ll find that they are quite easy to find and work with, come at a variety of hourly or project rates and can be incredibly affordable. I’ve hired my editors from Upwork and they have been worth every penny. Honestly, nothing says you can’t start out working with an editor from video #1 if editing video is not your thing.
Titles & Thumbnails
One of the top tips I can give is to create compelling thumbnails and titles. The content of your video might be amazing but if your thumbnail doesn’t catch anyone’s eye then you’re sunk.
As an artist, this is the perfect place to feature your finished artwork, pieces of your magical process or a glimpse behind the scenes. All of that work you’ve put into creating amazing Instagram-worthy content will come in handy here too.
If you ever need a still image of you in front of the camera for a thumbnail the easiest way to do this is to simply film what you want and take a still image from that video clip.
I hope some of these tips I’ve covered help you to improve your setup or just get started. Feel free to leave me any questions you might have here in the chat. I’d be happy to answer them. “Hit that like button and subscribe!... I mean share this article!”
Naomi VanDoren is an artist who spent much of her life abroad. She grew up in the Spice Islands of Indonesia. A childhood of travel and immersion into a variety of cultures at such a young age left her with the desire to explore the earth and share her experiences through art.
She has a formal education in graphic design and began pursuing illustration on her own after moving to Japan in 2013. Naomi dove deep into painting digitally full time, and her passion for drawing and painting blossomed. In 2015, she experienced painting in watercolor for the first time and found it to be the perfect medium for traveling and she hasn't put it down since.
Currently she is developing projects around her own foxdragon creatures.
Instagram - https://www.instagram.com/naomivandoren/
Twitter - https://twitter.com/NaomiVanDoren
YouTube - https://www.youtube.com/naomivandoren