How to Self Shoot a Travel Film

As a filmmaker and travel blogger, I get excited when these two passions collide, as was the case in the #BarceloStories project with Barceló Hotels. My task was to self-shoot three separate short films about the experiences you can have at the hotel. Self shooting poses a unique set of challenges. Here are some tips on how to make your travel film look super professional, even when you don’t have a crew.

Create a shot list: Unlike a shoot where there is a DP who is helping define the story, in a self shot film you are acting as both the director and protagonist of the story which can be stressful in the field. I have found that it’s easiest to create a shot list and to plan your storyline ahead of time. Think about your opening shot, closing shot and transitions. Have a loose idea of the narrative so that you can stay organized.

Work with natural light: When you are self shooting you can’t rely on a lighting guy with reflectors to make your shots flawless. That’s why you should let the natural light make the magic for you. Check what time the sun rise set your alarm for about an hour before so you can be ready with your finger on the record button when dawn breaks. Also schedule your day so that you are in a prime location for sunset. The light usually gets even better right after the sun sets so stick around for that beautiful glowing sky. In this beach-themed film I used got really lucky with some gorgeous sunrise and sunset footage:

Go macro: Get super detailed shots of yourself and your surroundings by using the macro feature on your camera. Macro means shooting extremely zoomed-in footage or photography of small details. This is actually one of my favorite styles to shoot in. Here’s an example of how I used macro footage in this project.

Use reflections to your advantage: Mirrors, glass, water — all opportunities to get cool perspectives of yourself without a cameraman. These shots also add an artistic edge to your film!

Invest in the right tripods:  It goes without saying, but as a travel filmmaker, you should invest in durable tripods for your cameras. I currently have three: The Manfrotto MVT502AM tripod for my Canon 5D Mark III, the GoPro 3-Way Camera Mount for my GoPro, and the Joby GorillaPod for my Canon G7x Mark II. These three tripods have withstood windy beaches, bumpy car rides, and aerial adventures with no problem. The GoPro 3-Way is not only a tripod but a extender for your GoPro which I love to use underwater, like I did in this Tulum cenote:

Check all of the 26 filmmakers who were part of the #BarceloStories project at http://barcelostories.com.

I’d love to see your self-shot video!  Share your video links in the comments below.

9 Comments

  • Courtney – you have inspired me to make my first travel film! I’m a solo traveler and have been wanting to make one for a while, been taking tons of footage. Will definitely use your tips here and share with you when done 🙂 Thanks for your blog!! Love this, found it very helpful.

    One question I have for you is song choice – if you want to use a popular song how can you do so legally!?

    • So happy that you are inspired to shoot your first travel film! Please send it my way when you finish it. For the musics, I stay away from using anything popular to avoid any copyright issues. You can find free music on Vimeo and YouTube that falls under the “Creative Commons” rule, which means that you simply have to tag out the artist/name of track when you publish the video. I use APM Music Library for my professional videos, but that is a pay-per-use website.

      xx
      Court

  • Krista says:

    Wow! Great tips! I will definitely have to see if I can work the Macro part of my camera. I love watching your videos. They are so inspirational! I’ve made a couple of videos of course trying to better them as I progress.
    What program do you use to edit your videos? At the moment i have windows movie maker so its perfect for just basic movies but I’m feeling like i want to go something better.
    Also, how do you go asking people to take video for you? I always have this picture in my head as to how I would like it done but it never turns out the way i hope it would.
    The following links are a few of my videos – my favourite.
    https://youtu.be/OpmEnGAuG5Q
    https://youtu.be/3yCZjRJYj8Y
    https://youtu.be/43FUxC8kQ3Y
    I’m going to Europe next year and I can’t wait to film it!
    Thanks for the tip lovely x

    • Krista! Great job with your latest travel films! I love the time lapses and your free spirit really comes through! I use Final Cut Pro X to edit my videos and there are lots of video tutorials online that will help you get up and running with it. When I ask someone to shoot a frame for me I try to be as detailed with my instructions, and usually set up the frame for them and then pass it off so they can see exactly what I’m seeing.

      P.S. I’ll be in Sydney next month and can’t wait to see the Blue Mountains now that I’ve checked out your vid. xx

  • Stunning videos Courtney!! You are an amazing talent.

  • Courtney, I love your travel films! I love how they are shot and you look so stunning in them! You have inspired me to make my own travel vlogs. These are just a start, I hope to get better at it as time passes 🙂

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uu5iTGmaoU4

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nlrl8KoDLw4

    • Mallaika, thank you so much for your note about my travel films! I loved seeing Giethoorn through your eyes! What a charming little town. Well done for your first few videos! Which program do you use to edit? xx

  • Daniel Convit says:

    Hi, Courtney!

    I really enjoy the work you do. Im a filmmaker too but I had never thought that I could film myself on the field. Becoming a Tv Host has been always one of my goals, and thanks to you I think I can start on it haha. If you ever decide to visit Venezuela I would show you the most beautiful places here like Santo Angel Waterfall, Roraima Mountain, Choroní, Morrocoy or Los Roques for example.

    Good Vibes!!

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