Twenty years ago, the idea of conceptualizing, shooting, post-processing, and disseminating videos daily (or even weekly) would have been laughable, but thanks to the incredible development of the tech behind every part of that process, it’s totally reasonable. You can even do it all yourself! If you’re getting the itch to give your voice, your life, and your story a more polished platform than your Instagram Story, we’re here to help you make it happen.
If you want to skip straight to our gear recommendations, click here:
Cameras • Audio Gear • Lighting • Stability and Studio Setup
There are an infinite number of individual reasons you might want to start your own video blog, but in a very general way, they all boil down to the desire to tell a story. Even channels devoted to things like product reviews are only successful when the viewer is sold on the reviewer’s vision or style, which usually works best when the review has a clear story structure—for example, starting with an introduction of conflict (“Is this the sharpest lens ever released?”) followed by an informative middle section and a cathartic conclusion (“Yes!”). Getting more specific is up to you, but is an extremely important step in telling a good story. Even before deciding exactly what your story is, take some time to define why you’re doing it.
How to create a successful vlog (maybe)
Nothing is guaranteed, but here are a few guidelines that will aid you in your journey.
Set goals for yourself
Some of the most common advice I’ve seen given by successful vloggers is to set a specific goal for yourself. Do you want to release daily, rough content or monthly, highly-produced content? Do you want to provide an escape for people, or do you want to try to get them involved in something? Do you want to be the number one soy sauce reviewer on YouTube?The better defined your focus is, the easier it will be for viewers to understand what your vlog is, which will let you connect with the right audience, who will (hopefully) be doing your marketing for you. The easier you make it for your viewers to convince their friends to watch your videos, the faster that audience will grow.
Let’s say you are a truck driver and want to start a vlog about your trips around America. The people who know you might be interested in a smorgasbord of seemingly-random clips of day-to-day life, but if you want to reach a wider audience, you’ll need to provide a little more structure. Here are a few ways to refine the general concept (“driving around America”) in a way that could more uniquely attract interest:
- Highlighting small businesses across America
- Showing a wide array of beautiful scenery
- Collecting the weirdest interactions with people at truck stops
- Pontificating on social or philosophical issues over time-lapses of long hauls
Set expectations for your viewers
Once you’ve defined why you want to vlog and what your niche is, you’re ready to get to work honing the concept and (most important of all) creating that content. Growth is rarely fast, but working consistently on building a high-quality library of videos and a focused, engaged audience ends up much more satisfying than getting a few days of viral fame. If you live up to the expectations you set for your viewers—which don’t have to be extreme, but should be clear—they’ll not only be willing to come back and watch again, but might start looking forward to your next upload!
Something that can be a very cool part about vlogging is that it’s by its very nature extremely social. While a critical-darling-auteur can get away with releasing strange movies and hiding from the press, a successful vlogger is someone whose audience considers almost a real life friend. Engaging directly with your fans is not only allowed, but almost a requirement. If you’re not interested in making a whole bunch of new internet friends, you may want to consider a different style of filmmaking.
While the personal, informal nature of vlogging means that people aren’t expecting Hollywood-style production, it is rare that video straight out of your camera is truly good enough. Even if you’re only adding a short intro, trimming some camera fumbling, or overlaying illustrative imagery, it’s important to do at least a little post-production on your videos, and creative editing can be a great tool in both presenting your story more engagingly and defining a unique “voice” for your vlogs. Both Windows Movie Maker and iMovie (depending on your operating system) are perfectly up to the task of exporting a great looking video, and many home editors swear by the free version of Blackmagic’s DaVinci Resolve software for more advanced operations.
Essential vlogging gear
Now that you’ve got the right mindset, let’s look at the fun part: the gear!
The two most essential items for your toolkit as a vlogger are a camera and a microphone. To really shoot great footage, you’ll also want some extra lighting and some way to hold your camera steady, whether that’s on the go or in a simple studio setup. Our top picks for each of those categories are below, but as a general rule, portability is one of the most important factors. For the camera specifically, some of the most critical factors are the ability to shoot high-quality video (4K preferred), reliable autofocus, a screen that flips so you can use the camera from the front, and I/O ports for microphones and HDMI cables.
Prices are accurate as of date of publication but are subject to change.
Our top picks for vlogging: Cameras
Everything about the ZV-1 is custom-built for capturing easy, gorgeous vlog footage. From the chunky grip to the new screen articulation (fully positionable, not blocked by accessories above the camera, and opposite all cable ports), this one is guaranteed to please. While patterned after the RX100 series, it trades the EVF and flash for a vastly improved directional mic (wind screen included). The Multi-Interface hot shoe is present, however, allowing you to mount lighting, mics, audio interfaces, and more. The Product Showcase function is a standout feature—no more fighting the (very effective) AF system to highlight a product instead of your face! The vlogger kit adds a fast memory card and a supremely cool remote/tripod/handle.
Sony CyberShot RX100 VII
The latest iteration in the RX100 series adds 4K HDR capability as well as a mic input. The RX100 VII features the same incredible AF featured on the new ZV-1, but has a more stills/travel-all-in-one-oriented 24–200mm-equivalent lens. You can even shoot time-lapses with the built-in intervalometer.
Slightly bigger than the ZV-1 or RX100 series cameras, the α6400 makes up for it with a much larger APS-C sensor (which means much better low-light performance and creamier backgrounds). The E PZ 16-50mm f/3.5–5.6 OSS lens is quiet and motor-driven, so you can zoom in and out while shooting without ruining your footage. 100 Mbps 4K video will give you plenty to work with.
Panasonic Lumix GH5 kit
The GH5 has been a favorite of hardcore videography enthusiasts (and pros) since it was released in 2017. With an astonishing wealth of video-specific features, this is a great choice for any vlogger who looks forward to the production process. The included Leica DG VARIO-ELMARIT 12-60mm f/2.8-4 Power OIS is nice and bright and won’t interfere with your audio.
Olympus OM-D E-M5 III kit
This rugged adventurer is dust-proof, freeze-proof, and splash-proof. While most of the cameras on this list top out at 30fps when shooting 4K, the E-M5 III will go up to 60fps for smoother video or slow-mo. Plus, the all-in-one lens can handle just about any situation.
Nikon Z 50 Creator’s Kit
This one-stop package will take you from 0 to 100 in no time at all. Featuring Nikon’s compact, mirrorless Z 50 (which has a DX sensor), the Creator’s Kit also includes a NIKKOR Z DX 16-50mm f/3.5-6.3 VR lens (compact and near-silent), RØDE VideoMicro, GorillaPod 3K, SmallRig vlogging mounting plate, and a perfectly-sized bag to carry it all around in. You’ll even get access to a Nikon School Online video-creation class.
Canon PowerShot G7X Mark III
The G7X Mark II was a big hit with daily vloggers, and the new version has only improved (particularly with the addition of a microphone input). The lens is fantastic, the body is small, and you can live-stream to YouTube if you have a wireless connection!
Canon EOS M6 Mark II kit
This kit includes the EF-M 15-45mm IS STM lens and EVF-DC2 viewfinder… though, of course, you’ll probably be using the flip-up screen more often than the EVF! With a 32.5 MP APS-C sensor and the compactness of mirrorless, this is a solid choice for a vlogger who wants a capable stills shooter as well (especially for someone who already has Canon lenses, which can be seamlessly adapted to the EF-M mount).
Runner up: your phone!
Remember, the content is more important than perfect video in the vlogosphere. As a lifelong lover of imaging, I’m all about getting stunning shots, but sometimes, the best camera in the world is the one you have with you.
Our top picks for vlogging: Audio Gear
RØDE VideoMic GO
The VideoMic GO is a lightweight and low-powered directional microphone that sits in your camera’s show mount and is powered through the audio cable—no batteries necessary! Plus, the shock-absorbing mount helps reduce noise from bumps and shakes that might otherwise be disastrous.
RØDE Wireless GO
This clip’n’go wireless microphone transmission system unlocks a whole new level of production quality. Say goodbye to unsightly cords all over your video, and allow your subjects to move unencumbered through the frame without sacrificing audio quality.
Azden SGM-990 Shotgun Mic
Target sounds up to 35 feet away and eliminate side chatter with this powerful super-cardioid (ellipse-patterned) directional microphone. Switch between two “widths” at will; includes windscreen, shoe mount and hook-and-loop mounting tape and uses only one AAA battery.
Zoom H1n Handy Recorder
The most versatile option: you can plug the H1n into your camera or computer to use it as a high-quality external microphone, or record directly on the unit when you’re capturing sound effects or recording voiceovers independently from your video. Also great for archiving your friends’ concert performances!
Our top picks for vlogging: Lighting
Super bright (800 lumens) and extremely small, the LitraTorch 2.0 means you have no excuse for poor lighting. A built-in magnet and tripod thread make it easy to mount anywhere, plus you can get all kinds of cool filters for creative lighting.
LitraTorch Cold Shoe Ball Mount
Mount your LitraTorch on-camera (or on-rig) and point it exactly where you need it to point with this slick cold-shoe-connected ball head.
ProMaster Mobile LED 10″ Ring
Ring lights are awesome for “talking head” style vlogs, and they’re indispensable for anything requiring close-up work (make-up tutorials, for example). Attach your camera or mobile phone via standard tripod thread or clamp, then mount the whole unit to a tripod or light stand. Switch between cool and warm lighting.
ProMaster LED 160 Video Light
This battery-operated, 1200 lumen LED light brick strikes the perfect balance between portability and power. Run on AAs or rechargeable power pack. Includes diffuser and 3300ºK filter.
Our top picks for vlogging: Stability and Studio Setup
Benro 3XS Gimbal
With a long battery life, compact fold-up design, built-in mic passthrough, and a low price, it’s tough to beat the 3XS for smartphone stabilization. Nobody ever likes shaky video—banish it forever!
Cam Caddie Scorpion EX
The Scorpion EX is the simplest way to both stabilize your camera and attach numerous accessories. One accessory shoe is included with the Scorpion EX, plus the feet are threaded for easy attachment to a large video tripod plate (without removing any lights, mics, etc. first).
ProMaster Camera Phone Tripod Mount
Shooting with your phone? That’s no reason to miss out on the benefits of a tripod or monopod. This mount securely grips almost any phone and screws onto a standard tripod thread.
ProMaster Triple Bracket 4″
Hold up to three accessories securely in the same location (say, a remote transceiver, LED light, and microphone?). The base is threaded for tripod/light stand use, or slide it onto your camera’s shoe mount for the world’s most compact video rig.
Hitchhiker Convertible Tripod
Tiny but trustworthy, the Hitchhiker is both a secure grip and a take-anywhere tripod. Includes a smartphone grip for vlogging on the go.
This infinitely adaptable mini tripod will let you achieve stability anywhere. Plus, you can mold the legs into a comfortable pistol grip/selfie stick for walking and vlogging!
ProMaster Wrinkle-resistant Green Backdrop
Easy to wash, easy to smooth, this cloth 108″ x 60″ backdrop is the perfect green for greenscreening and is easy to store anywhere.
Savage Widetone Seamless Green Backdrop
This 53″ x 36″ is also the perfect green for greenscreening if you prefer smooth, textureless paper for your backdrop.
Hi, Dustin Sigaty! I have read your article. What a masterpiece. I would love to get back to your website and read more from you.
I am an aspiring YouTuber and I want to improve the audio of my vlogs. So far, I have been reading good reviews about RODE VideoMic Go. They said it’s lightweight and easy to use so I will definitely buy one for myself.
Glad to hear it. Good luck with your quest for improved excellence!