When you first start out, chances are your work isn't going to look too good. Poor lighting, ill-fitting music, and boring compositions plague the lion's share of beginner content, but it really doesn't have to, especially if you know what to look for to make your films and videos look more professional. In this video, photographer/videographer Peter McKinnon shares 5 things that can instantly make your stuff look loads better. Check it out below:

These things might seem like no-brainers for all of you experienced pros, but for the beginners reading this, things like lighting, music, and camera movement may not be on your radar yet. So, here are the 5 tips McKinnon talks about in the video, which you can pull off without having to get your hands on any extra equipment.


Good lighting doesn't require an expensive kit; it could be as simple as placing your subject near a window or flipping on a nearby light. Even getting your hands on some cheap light modifiers, like a reflector or diffuser (or even a poster board or bed sheet), would work wonders at giving your shot better lighting.

Sound and Music

Adding sound and music to your project can be difficult if you're unaware of the emotional and psychological effects they can have on an audience. For instance, putting a death metal song over a tender love scene may not be ideal (though, maybe it could work in some rare, very weird cases). So, be sure to pay close attention to how music makes you feel, as well as how you want a scene to make your audience feel, that way you'll be able to match them accordingly.

Learn more

Information is more accessible now than it has ever been, and many times it's free, whether it comes from a tutorial or a blog like this one. Make it a point to learn everything you can about your craft: read more books, articles, and blogs, watch more films, tutorials, and video essays, and most importantly shoot more projects, because practice makes perfect.



If your shot looks and feels boring, a good way to make it more interesting and cinematic is adding some camera movement. It doesn't have to be super elaborate or complicated, like some of the gimbal moves you might've seen; a short and simple tracking shot on a slider can truly work wonders. You don't even need to buy a slider to get this kind of shot either. You can use pretty much anything that has wheels or allows you to move your camera without interference, like a shopping cart, car, or skateboard. I've even used a bed sheet before to get a tracking shot, so let your imagination run wild.


The location of a scene is incredibly important for many reasons, because not only does it help tell your story, but it helps add to the overall aesthetic. Choose interesting and aesthetically pleasing locations whenever possible (unless your story calls for something else), because if you do, you have essentially baked-in production value.

What are some other things that'll help beginner filmmakers add to their production value without requiring them to spend any money? Let us know in the comments. 

Source: Peter McKinnon