How to Film a Travel Video: The Complete Guide

How to Film a Travel Video: The Complete Guide

It’s nearly 2019, and more people are traveling than ever. Whether you prefer adventure travel, couple travellers, a romantic getaway with your significant other or just travel with family, chances are you’re going to whip out your smartphone at some point and take some videos.

What is hard isn’t taking the videos themselves, but the dread that flares up on the back of your neck when you actually think about having to edit them.

I get it, editing travel videos is overwhelming and it seems like a daunting task to take on for anyone unless you are a trained video editor. But rest assured, not only is this easier than ever these days, but pretty quick and painless once you master a few skills.

How to Film a Travel Video: The Complete Guide

How to Film a Travel Video Part 1: Intro to Video Storytelling

The entire point of taking photos or videos is to document your story, whether a wild adventure to the other side of the world or your daughters birthday party. This is visual storytelling and the most exciting thing about is is that it is one of the only mediums on Earth understood by everyone, no matter their nationality, race, religion or language.

The other most important thing to remember is that you don’t need a big fancy camera, microphone, tripod or lights to tell your story, so just stick to the basic elements of storytelling and use the iPhone in your pocket if that is all you have, after all it is what we film all our adventure travel videos with as well, and they’ve been watched over 13 million times :)

Every story has a beginning, middle and end, which is essential in any story telling, no matter the length. If you are filming highlights from a day trip out with friends, make sure to get that initial wide establishing shot, ask your friends what they are excited about for the day, share the plan for your outing and initial reactions.

Once you’ve got that, your table is set and you’ve given the reader all they need to know to feel compelled to go on the adventure with you.

Second, the heart of your “story”. This is the meat and potatoes of the travel video you are telling and the reason people clicked on it in the first place. Is it a short weekend travel guide to Istanbul or maybe swimming with dolphins in Zanzibar, whatever the topic this is what matters most. Show every angle (we’ll cover this later), show the audience everything you are doing and think like them as well. What would you be asking if you were watching this? What information would you want to know? What answers would you be looking for?

If you’re filming in an old city center, look up some facts and share them in your video. We were recently filming in Belgrade and learned that 1/5th of all Roman Emperors were born in what is today Serbia, that is interesting so share it!

Far too many travel videos we see end abruptly, without a smooth transition or closer, no final thought or end frame. It’s as if whoever was filming simply got the peak action, put the camera down and called it a day, but this is a sin!

As important as the intro is, so is the outtro. This is where you give your final thoughts, film the reaction and feedback from what you’ve done on the day, share tips and tricks to your watching audience (ie. Park on the street and save the $18 parking lot fee, etc)

Without this your travel video story is incomplete and you’ve left tons of value on the table you could have provided to your watching audience. Remember, if you don’t provide good value, there are millions of other travel video creators they can turn to, so don’t shoot yourself in the foot!

Ok, on to part two.

How to Film a Travel Video Part 2: Pre-Visualization

Now that you have a grasp on the essentials of visual storytelling, let’s move on to the next step which is visualizing the amazing story you’re going to tell. Think about your favorites scenes or shots in movies or other travel videos that you’ve seen, what has stayed with you? What stood out the most? What shots leave you wanting more?

The pre-visualization is an essential part to understanding how to film a travel video, and this outline will create the skeleton you will film around.

Every time we film a new “48 Hours in..” adventure travel guide episode, we think about what the most creative and compelling shots will be, and which shots will draw in the audience the most. Is it a beautiful sunset timelapse over the best rooftop bar in Delhi or maybe a slow motion shot of someone running through flowers in Iceland, both which we’ve used.

Remember, you are trying to convey a sense of place, which takes some thinking. Simply filming some shaky left to right pans on the street corner isn’t going to do an epic city center like Paris or Los Angeles justice. You need to think outside the box.

Aside from the “wow” factor, what are the essential elements your travel video needs? What shots are absolute musts haves? If you are visiting Dubai, you can’t film a video without showing the world famous Dubai Mall fountains, the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa, the Burj Al Arab, the endless desert or the bustling souqs at the Dubai Creek, so plan this into your filming.

We keep a list on our iPhones of not only the specific shots we need, but the topics we need to discuss as well, and any specific backdrop we need to have present.

If we’re filming in Austria, like we were a few weeks ago, and are speaking about the vastness of the stunning Austrian Alps, we should probably film each other saying those things while on a hike IN the Alps - which you can easily forget.

It is the pre-planning elements you compose while visualizing your travel video which allow you the freedom and peace of mind to film freely and get creative while on your trip since you know the structure is in place.

The worst thing that can happen after you film a travel video is coming back home only to realize there are critical shots and elements of the video you completely failed to shoot. Trust us, we’ve been there.

How to Film a Travel Video Part 3: Creative Shots

Visual storytelling is a dance, and in 2019 it is all about making sure you keep the audience engaged and watching your video. Did you know the average attention span is 8 seconds? That is literally shorter than that of a goldfish, so you’ve got to stay on your toes!

This means thinking how the audience would and making sure you film every single angle that you’ll need to use when editing your masterpiece. (see “How to Edit a Travel Video: The Complete Guide for more).

While we don’t use any tripods, microphones or lights when we film our travel videos, we do utilize some rules of filmmaking which make our videos appear more professional.

Making sure that your subjects are framed nicely, either in the center or off to the left or right of the frame, can make a shot pleasing to the eye or terrible to look at. Make sure you aren’t using distracting backgrounds, there aren’t loud crowds everywhere, telephone poles sticking out of the person speakings head, things like this. Imagine you are taking a picture, take the time to frame it right.

The iPhone has a great ability to get shots you’d never think came from a smartphone, but you have to know how to use it properly.

If you press and hold on a specific area of your screen, the iPhone will lock focus on that area. Now not only is the exposure correct, but it won’t auto adjust exposure when you move the phone around, which creates a very annoying visual look in your video, but it also will go out of focus if you move forward or backwards. This can be used as a really creative tool if you play with it. It allows your subject to come in or out of focus as you move towards or away, a feature not thought about when thinking of filming with an iPhone.

This can be used to highlight details in food, faces, architecture, etc. We use tons of detail and quick-cut shots in our adventure travel videos, which keep the visuals fun and the audience engaged.

Many times these are quick cuts of doors closing, wallets or money being put on the table, grabbing something, etc.

So think large, think small, think above, think below. Go where other won’t to get the point of view that creates the impact you want. Are you at a statue or building that is gigantic in size? Kneel or lay down on the ground to show it’s massive scope. Don’t be afraid to get dirty.

Are you trying to show the small size of a flower, person, place or thing? Frame it correctly to show something else for comparison to really tell the viewer what they need to know visually.

Remember, it is always more effective to show something visually rather than having to have someone speak it. This is most important for places, which need to be established with signs, banners or logos. This sets the scene for a restaurant, monument, building, etc without you having to say “Hi, we’re here at ABC”, instead just show it.

Phew, on to part 4.

How to Film a Travel Video Part 4: Stay Relatable

While this isn’t exactly part of how to physically film a travel video, it is our number one bit of advice if you’re thinking of creating content that you hope will be valuable and useful for an audience.

Listen, we aren’t Lonely Planet or Frommer’s and neither of us have art history or political science backgrounds, so we’re not going to try and spend a travel video in Barcelona explaining the intricate history of Catalonia, we’re simply too stupid and unqualified. There are endless documentaries and videos on this subject, so we wouldn’t be adding any value here at all.

What we can do, is try to make fun content, which is also informative and funny, with our own personalities, after all they are the only ones we have.

And for an audience to connect and follow along, we think it is the most important to stay relatable and authentic. This is why we try to be as honest as we possibly can, whether if it is telling you how exhausting an overnight flight was, how terrible that bus ride was, or how so and so restaurant or museum isn’t worth it.

Being relatable and honest allows an audience to connect with us, which is what we are after, in order to grow our audience bigger and have a larger community of followers helping to dictate the types of content we create. This is why we also post so many polls asking you what you want to see. After all, we’re making all this for you, not us, so it’s valuable to know what you want.

You’ll never see us touring a church or that many museums because they simply aren’t our thing, so trying to add them wouldn’t be real, which we’ll never do.

What you will see us doing? Being general idiots, getting lost everywhere we go and finding the best rooftop bars - now that’s what I’m talking about!

How to Film a Travel Video Part 5: Have Some Fun

Now that you have the guts of your travel video filmed, have some fun with it. Once you know all the essential elements are covered, think about what creative shots you can add which will inject a bit more fun to your travel video.

Maybe film a ton of slow motion shots of someone walking away from you, framed the same, from all over the city and then cut them all together while editing?

Think of small visual tricks you can repeat over and over. Maybe place something in the same part of the frame over and over and have it picked up or placed down.

Maybe think about having someone start a sentence or fact in one scene and finish in another?

Again, watch some of your favorite movies or travel videos to get ideas of the types of shots others use and try to emulate your favorites. While fancy Hollywood directors may be using million dollar cameras and a 200 person crew, the simple framing and idea behind a shot stays the same, and you can do it too.

Spontaneous dancing or terrible road trip karaoke are always our go to moves, as they add fun and humor to any video anywhere, no matter the location.

Always think of anything that is unique to the city or place you are filming and think of funny jokes you can make around that. Anyone remember my terrible “I don’t Cair-o” or “All of the Sudan” jokes in our “48 Hours in Egypt” and “48 Hours in Sudan” videos? I know, barf, but don’t tell me you didn’t laugh.

How to Film a Travel Video Part 6: Tips and Tricks

Ok, if you have followed along to the above 5 steps chances are you’ve learned how to film a travel video that covers all the bases, but let’s take it to the next level.

We film 99% of our adventure travel videos with an iPhone, but we also have a few other tips and tricks to share which will bump your next travel video to the next level, if you want to really make it pop.

While our first travel guide video “48 Hours in Beirut” was filmed 100% on a beat up old iPhone 6, since then we have added in both a GoPro and a DJI Spark drone. These two little toys can allow us to get some different types of content which bring our travel videos to the next level.

The GoPro allows us to get some really fun traveling shots when it’s stuck to the hood or windshield of our car and also comes in handy when we can prop it up at a table when we’re eating or having a drink somewhere beautiful and get us that awesome sunset or traffic timelapse shot without much added thought. Also, it fits in your pocket so doesn’t really add to what you have to carry around. Win/win.

Everyone has a drone these days and we see them almost everywhere we go. And while many city centers and popular tourist attractions have banned drones, there are still plenty of places you can fly a drone when you film a travel video which will get you some stunning footage that will bring your video to the next level.

We use the Spark, which is a tiny little drone with lots of power. While it doesn’t shoot 4K footage, we know most of our videos are watched on a phone from the toilet so it doesn’t really bother us. We also use this to take photos of us in epic places which really helps to show scope and scale. Adding a drone to a travel video can be a game changer.

How to Film a Travel Video Part 7: Conclusion

Phew! You’ve done it! If you’ve followed this guide, you should have all the elements you need for an awesome travel video, plus a few visual tricks and extra fun to really make it shine.

Remember, if you are filming for a travel blog and will need to edit versions for Instagram or Instastories, you’ll need to keep that in mind while filming.

Sometimes we film the same shot over a couple times, once horizontal and once vertical. 16x9 and 1080x1920 are TOTALLY different aspect ratios, so keep this in mind when filming.

Now that your video is filmed, now comes the fun part, putting it all together! Don’t worry, we haven’t left you high and dry. Head over to our “How to Edit a Travel Video: A Complete Guide” article for all the same goodness for the post-production side of things.

Please, please don’t let all your hard work go to waste and let all the amazing footage you’ve filmed sit on your phone or a hard drive for the next 18 months before you try and tackle editing it. I promise, we’ll have fun, walk you through everything and you’ll have an amazing travel video to show off in no time if you follow all our steps.

We’ll see you over there soon!

Anne standing just below Lobouche, Nepal on our 2018 trek to Everest Base Camp.

Anne standing just below Lobouche, Nepal on our 2018 trek to Everest Base Camp.