When you go on a great trip, sometimes it’s not enough to tell people about it—you want to show them, too. And in our increasingly digital world, the best way to do this is with a video. Travel videos—when done well—have the power to inspire and share stories in an emotional and immersive way. They also make wonderful keepsakes that encompass all the best memories from your experiences.
How to Make a Travel Video
You don’t have to be a professional to make a travel video, either. Here are some tips for planning, filming, and editing that will help you create great travel videos, even if you don’t have any previous experience.
To Make a Travel Video, First Get the Right Equipment
Any great travel video begins with a packing list. Before you set off for your destination, make sure you’re bringing along everything you need to get the shots you want. First, decide what kind of camera to use. Whether it’s the camera in your phone or a more high-end model, there are lots of options to consider depending on your trip.
If you want to make a travel video with high-quality images, look into bringing a DSLR camera or even a handheld camcorder or point-and-shoot camera. If you know you’ll be on the move during your trip or want to capture underwater footage, a GoPro is a great all-purpose camera perfect for capturing big adventures. And if you’re not looking to invest a lot in camera equipment, you can always just use your phone. Smartphone image quality is constantly improving, and there are plenty of ways to improve on that quality, too.
Additionally, if you suspect you’ll be recording a lot of audio, or will be shooting in windy environments, it might be a good idea to invest in a high-quality external microphone.
Protect Your Equipment
When you’ve decided which sort of camera you’ll be using to make a travel video, you’ll need the right stuff to protect it during your travels. There are plenty of small camera bags that will do for any number of cameras, but if you’re going pro and planning on bringing a lot of equipment, consider buying a separate carry-on designed to organize and pad your equipment, like this sturdy bag from Ape Case.
If you’re planning to do all the shooting on your GoPro, the VentureCase from GoPole will keep your camera and accessories dry and organized.
Know Where You’re Going
Spontaneous travel is fun, but if you know you’ll want to make a video to document your adventures, it helps to know where you’re going. Before you leave, make sure you have a rough itinerary of where you’ll be and when you’ll be there.
Not only will this help you plan out your final video, it will also give you the opportunity to research what you’ll see when you’re there. Check weather reports to determine when the best time to shoot will be and look up images of each destination to start planning the shots you’re likely to get when you’re there. Time of day also plays a big factor when it comes to getting the perfect shot. For example, if you want to capture silhouettes on the Charles Bridge in Prague, it’s better to visit during the less-crowded sunrise hour.
To Make a Travel Video, You Need to Create a Shot List
Figure out what you want to record at your destination. Most people tend to pull out their cameras instinctively (e.g., whenever they see something interesting). But to make a travel video, it’s smart to plan some of your shots ahead of time so you can get all the footage you’ll need.
If you know you’ll be visiting the Eiffel Tower in Paris, for example, you’ll want more than just a shot from the top. Here’s an example of a list you might make for this specific experience:
- Establishing shot of the Eiffel Tower from street
- Shot of the base of the Eiffel Tower
- Shot of purchasing your ticket
- Shot of taking the elevator to the top
- Panning shot from the top overlooking Paris
It might mean more work, but you’ll be thankful you have all that footage when you sit down to edit your travel video.
Narration in a Travel Video
Consider incorporating narration to help tell your story. There are two ways to do this—during or after your trip. If you want to make your narration a part of your video, remember to talk while you record or shoot selfie-style and let your audience know what you’re doing. (“Here we are at the Grand Canyon!”) You can even turn the camera on your travel partners and ask them to tell the camera what’s happening in the moment.
If you choose to wait, adding narration after the trip is over is also a great way to reflect on your travel memories. All you need to do is write a script and record. Think of this as an opportunity to really organize your story. (“Little did we know what was waiting for us around the corner.”) For an extra challenge, try to incorporate both types of narration when you make a travel video.
Another way to liven up your travel videos is by bringing people into them. Just make sure to ask for permission before you start recording. Travel guides, locals, and even your travel partners all make great subjects for interviews. Shots of people are a good way to mix up your footage, and you can even edit their voices over certain shots. For example, if your travel guide is describing the history of a landmark, this is a great time to cut right to your footage of it.
Time-lapses are mesmerizing to watch and easy to do, so there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be shooting time lapses on your trip. Many cameras, including your smartphone, have time-lapse functions that you can take advantage of. All you need to do is set your camera in a steady place and wait. It’s not always necessary, but it’s helpful to have a tripod handy for filming time-lapses. If you don’t have a tripod, just make sure you have a flat surface where you can place your camera or phone.
To make the most out of your time-lapse, look for moving scenes, whether that be a busy town square or a vivid sunset. Personally, I like to incorporate time-lapses into my trip by setting up my camera at a restaurant or anywhere I know I’ll be sitting for a long period of time.
Editing Your Travel Video
When the trip is over and you’ve recovered from your post-travel blues, it’s time to sit down and look over your footage. Focus on the moments that stand out and cut anything that didn’t come out as well as you hoped. Unless you documented something truly magnificent, the world doesn’t need to see your blurry or shaky footage. When you’ve figured out which clips you’ll be using, sit back and think about the story that you’re trying to tell and how you can use some of the above techniques (narration, time-lapses, etc.) to bring that story to life.
When it comes to software, there are plenty of free video-editing tools you can use to put your video together. Some, like Windows Movie Maker, come with your computer, or for Mac users, iMovie is available at the Apple Store.
If you’re willing to pay for your editing software, programs like Adobe Premiere or Final Cut Pro are a great way to give your videos a professional edge. There’s a bit of a learning curve with these programs, but many tutorials are available online.
Every epic travel montage needs the perfect song, but unfortunately you might run into trouble if you try to upload your video to a public platform without securing the rights to the music you’ve selected. Websites like Facebook and YouTube will often remove videos if the videos use music that falls under copyright.
The best way to share your video with your friends and the rest of the world is to look for royalty-free music. This is music available online that you can download and use for free. Just make sure to credit the original source. There are plenty of websites to find this kind of music, like Bensound or Sound of Picture. And if you insist your video is incomplete without your favorite song, you can always try to purchase the rights or just keep an unpublished version for your collection.
More from SmarterTravel:
- 10 Instant-Print Cameras Recommended by a Travel Photographer
- Nikon Coolpix W300 Review: An Adventure-Proof Camera for Underwater Video
- 10 Gorgeous Hotels Made for Instagram
Jamie Ditaranto is a writer and photographer who is always looking for her next adventure. Follow her on Twitter @jamieditaranto.
Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2017. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.