What you really need to know now about making garden videos

Posted By: Alexandra Campbell On: October 23rd, 2016 In: Writing & blogging help

Garden videos don’t feature in the playlists of the UK’s biggest YouTube stars.  Although it can only be a matter of time before Zoella gets to ‘that gardening age’…

But video is here in a big way, even for gardeners. If you’re a blogger or you run a business, you need to start thinking about video now.

YouTube is the second biggest search engine after Google. Many people go directly to it when they want to know, for example, ‘how to prune roses’ or ‘gardening for small spaces.’

You may hate the way you look on camera. Or you may be embarrassed by how your voice sounds.

Me too.

It’s taken me about two years to summon up the courage to do something like the video below. It explains what my YouTube Channel is about (tip: you should have an ‘introductory’ video).

I am quite pleased with the lighting, but it has reduced friends and family to helpless giggles at about 25 seconds in.

Mr Middlesize says he’s suddenly noticed that I look like Theresa May, and my son says I must change it tomorrow. Other friends have suggested I might like to put on some John Travolta and dance round the kitchen.

However I’m going to leave it up for a week, so that you can feel  encouraged to make mistakes, too. You may even know the difference between right and left.

The most helpful advice I have ever had about any sort of creativity came from the novelist Wendy Holden.

She said that whenever she worried about her writing not being good enough, she simply reminded herself that there were many worse books out there. You will never be the worst.

Some of my early videos certainly qualify for the accolade of Worst Video Out There. Nevertheless, I set out to create the Middlesized Garden Youtube channel and its garden videos, so that I could report back to you with some helpful tips.

With my blogging teacher hat on, I’ve been to several YouTube workshops recently. The tips below come from those experts.

What do you need to make videos?

You may not be able to afford expensive equipment. However, today’s smartphones and tablets are capable of delivering good video quality. I do everything on my aging iPhone 5 or my bottom-of-the-range iPad (the phone seems to have a better camera).

The advantage of doing it on phone or tablet is that you can edit it on the same. I use the free iMovie programme.

My local Apple store has a scheme where you pay £79 for a year’s worth of one-to-one tuition on using Apple products. I did the iMovie session twice (OK, maybe three times), but now find it quick and easy.

A separate microphone

If there’s one bit of kit you need to buy, it’s a separate microphone. All the bloggers I know swear by Rode Lavalier. I bought my first one for under £50. I gave that to my son, but when I tried to replace it, I discovered it had probably been counterfeit.

The second Rode microphone cost nearly £200, but had a much longer cable, and a proper box with a guarantee. I’m so glad Mr Middlesize doesn’t read this blog, as I plan to imply it was a large Ocado bill.

Use the YouTube Creator Academy

There is loads of free and well explained tuition provided by YouTube itself under the YouTube Creator Academy label.

Top tips include: ‘research other successful videos in your niche or special interest’. Think about what you like and don’t like.

As far as I can see, successful YouTubers wave their hands around alot. (That’s where I went wrong on the first video in this post.) You are supposed to start your videos with ‘Hey, guys! I am just so excited to be showing you my armpits today!’ Then you wave your arms in the air, and gabble a bit more.

To be fair, garden videos are much more measured, but some of them do drone on.

The most popular garden video I could find had three million views. The first five minutes featured a man saying that he was really excited to be basing the whole thirty-five minute video on just one letter. But it was such a good letter, he said, and he would be so excited to base all his videos on one letter. Please send him all your exciting gardening letters…. I fell asleep before he read the letter out.

Experts now say you should keep your videos short. I’ve started a series called ‘One Minute Gardening Tips’ (see below).

Caption or sub-title your garden videos.

A huge percentage of viewers see their YouTube videos without sound. So I made a video about how to measure out one litre of compost (don’t laugh, very useful) without any talk at all. It had sub-titles. I haven’t quite got to grips with making them stand out, as you can see from the video below.

Then I found another top tip that emphasised the importance of music in YouTube videos. So I added music from YouTube’s free music tracks.

It is important to know the rules of copyright in making videos, so never use any images or music unless you know you have the copyright.

The upshot is that ‘How to Measure One Litre of Compost’ has a stirring rendition of Mozart in the background. Try not to giggle, please, if you view it.

Top Tips

Have a script and plan out what you are going to say or do beforehand. Make sure that your video explains who you are at the beginning and the end.

As with all social media, use all the options to have photographs, logos and descriptions on your Channel page. Don’t look anonymous.

top tips for a successful YouTube Channel

Make sure that your YouTube header has links to your website or social media icons in it.

Post new videos regularly. Organise your content by creating ‘Playlists.’

Make a ‘custom thumbnail’ when you upload your video to YouTube. This is the picture that YouTube show to people before they click on the video. I use Canva to create my custom thumbnails. It’s free and very easy to use.

If you don’t make your own custom thumbnail, then YouTube will just grab any image, and it won’t look good. All my gardening videos above have custom thumbnails, but this one doesn’t. You can see the difference.

Be helpful or funny

I recently bought some privet hedging from Best4Hedging. In the email accompanying the delivery, there were links to short YouTube garden videos telling me how to plant my hedging. They were really useful (see below), and I can see how companies of all kinds could make good use of video.

Use all the rules of photography when making video. Shoot with the light on your face, not behind you. Shoot in the early morning or late afternoon for a better light.

Above all, be genuine. The experts say that people don’t mind imperfect videos. Real people make mistakes. If your video is too slick, it can feel less authentic. Of course, the skill of a pro video-maker is to create authenticity and professionalism, so if you’re running a business and can afford a pro, it’ll be a good investment.

And do you know? I really am excited to be telling you all about this. You can see that my garden videos are far from perfect and that I am far from Zoella. I hope that’ll encourage you to get your smartphone out and give it a go.

And if you feel like subscribing to The Middlesized Garden YouTube Channel, that would be even more exciting…thank you!

8 Comments

  • Andy says:

    Well done Alexandra – Great work. Even us radio broadcasters are by necessity having to embrace video for social media. I totally concur with you about getting an external microphone. Something that got a few of us in the office who like to get our own tech a bit excited was this bit of kit used by a former colleague of ours. https://www.amazon.co.uk/Saramonic-SmartMixer-Audio-Mixer-Smartphones/dp/B014Q9YUKG Allows guest contributor and host to both be ‘on-mic’ and other external mics can be used. One other thing I’d add is that sometimes just be prepared to shoot something as it happens if you’re on a garden visit – this the result of an ad-hoc moment on a tour of Grear Dixter this year https://www.facebook.com/SundayGardening/videos/1347218958622635/ Hope useful. Best. Andy.

    • Thank you so much, Andy – I had been wondering what to do if I actually interviewed someone. I thought I’d have to tie my tiny Rode microphone to a pencil and hold it between us…

  • I like your introductory video Alexandra. I’ve often notice YouTubers pointing “the wrong way” to their comments box etc.
    I thought this was because the comments/more info boxes are in different places if you’re watching on your mobile device or PC. Of course if you’re posting to a blog/newsletter it makes less sense because your watching within the blog and not on YouTube. Keep up the good work, Julie

    • That’s a very comforting observation – I think I might cultivate a vague wave in several directions in future, as there’s a ‘mirror’ aspect to it all that is confusing for those who are already challenged about the difference between right and left.

  • Miranda says:

    Fantastic!! I particularly love Mr m doing the garden hoovering! And the glimpse of new doggy. Monty dons’ dog Nigel has his own fan club so I reckon you should feature her more.
    I’m afraid I did have a good giggle watching you chop up a plastic bottle to Mozart. Blue Peter eat your heart out!!

  • Sue says:

    Well done Alexandra, I can see this becoming very popular. Sometimes I would much rather see a video than read a long article, after all gardening is a very practical past time. But please don’t give up your blog because I enjoy that dropping into my mail box on a Sunday morning too.

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