Your course outline is made, your lessons are planned, and you may even have started putting together a marketing strategy to get students excited to enroll in your course. Then the thought hits you: You need high quality video and photos to give your online course the extra flare that it needs.

It’s no secret visuals are key to engaging people online in any capacity. However, enlisting the help of a professional photographer or videographer can be an additional expense that you may not be able to take on immediately. Luckily, you can create professional home videos for your online course at a fraction of the cost. All you need to do is know what to look for when choosing your camera or gear.

Below are some tips to help you find a camera that suits your creative needs for your online business without making too much of a dent in your pocket.

Get smart with your phone

Before making the leap to invest hundreds or even thousands of dollars into a camera, start by getting familiar with your smartphone’s camera. By getting comfortable with the tools you have at your disposal, you can better understand what you’d require in a camera to create content for your online course. Also, you’ll have more time to adequately research and save for your dream camera.

Here are some ways to get the most out of your smartphone camera and start recording today.

Optimize your camera settings to achieve better video and photo quality

Much like a highly coveted DSLR camera, you can change your smartphone’s camera settings to suit your needs when shooting content for your course. For example, the iPhone 6 and later are all equipped to shoot in HD and 4K. Many Android phones, such as Google Pixel, shoot in these high resolutions as well. Play around with the settings and determine what works best for your online business’s needs.

Make sure your smartphone camera lens is clean

Smartphones these days have some pretty powerful lenses, and one thing that keeps you from unleashing their power is a dirty lens. If you find that your home video and photo quality looks subpar even under perfect lighting conditions, try giving your lens a quick wipe with a soft microfiber cloth. You’d be amazed at how often this simple step is overlooked.

Turn your smartphone and record videos horizontally

Generally, there aren’t any hard rules on how to shoot content on your smartphone. However, unless you’re shooting social media content such as Instagram Reels or TikTok videos, horizontal footage tends to be more aesthetically pleasing to watch. It also saves time and headaches when editing video for a platform where horizontal orientation is the standard (e.g. YouTube).

Consider utilizing a cloud-based system to store your content

The one downfall to using your smartphone to shoot content for your business or online course is memory on your device can fill up rather quickly. Using a cloud-based system such as iCloud or Google Photos is a way to organize content that you shoot for your course while preserving some space on your smartphone for your personal memories.

Locating your camera match

You’ve mastered shooting quality content on your smartphone and have decided it’s finally time to graduate to a “real” camera. Maybe you’re looking for more creative control that your smartphone doesn’t offer, or your production goals have been elevated and it’s time to snag some equipment that can help bring your creative visions to life.

The determining factor for upgrading equipment may vary among creators. However, the steps you should take when deciding to purchase a camera are essentially the same.

Start with a realistic budget

Whether you’re spending $300 or $3,000, purchasing a camera is an investment. With any investment, it’s ideal that you spend within your means. Many factors may help you determine your budget for a camera for your home video but make sure whatever amount you decide to pay doesn’t break the bank or take away from the funds you need for other things such as promoting your course or investing in lighting sources or audio equipment down the line.

When creating your budget, don’t forget to factor in add-on items that help with video production such as a tripod, an external microphone, a BlueTooth remote, and even different lens options. Generally, purchasing a camera doesn’t just stop with the camera, so bear that in mind when putting together your budget.

Get familiar with the different types of camera options

Like anything you may encounter in this world, there are tons of camera options on the market.

In efforts to help you narrow down those options, here’s a quick snapshot of some of the main camera types that you may find on your hunt to create quality videos at home.

1. Point and shoot: A point-and-shoot camera typically is the most affordable but also has minimal abilities for adjusting settings. Although point-and-shoot cameras may be the easiest to use, you may find yourself needing to upgrade sooner compared to DSLR and Mirrorless camera options that allow you to upgrade lenses and other add-ons to improve your quality over time.

Our choice: Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX80

2. DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex): This camera type is prevalent among creators because of its superior image and video quality. A DSLR, which is a type of digital camera that uses a series of mirrors to reflect an image into the viewfinder, consists of a body (the actual camera) and lens (which are interchangeable).

One huge advantage of DSLR cameras is their impeccable battery power, which may come in handy depending on the amount of content you need to shoot. Additionally, DSLR cameras perform better when shooting in low light conditions, generally have superior autofocus capabilities, and have a more comprehensive range of accessories.

Our choice: Nikon D3500

3. Mirrorless: With this type of camera, what you see is what you get. As you may have gathered, Mirrorless cameras don’t use mirrors to capture an image. Mirrorless cameras do a better job of displaying what you’d actually see, making it easier to play around with settings while shooting. Generally, this means your content will require less editing post-production.

Additionally, the mirrorless nature of this camera makes it lighter and more compact than its DSLR counterparts. If you require a camera that travels well, a Mirrorless camera may be the way to go.

Our choice: Canon M50

Determine the lens options for your top camera picks

Once upon a time, “megapixels” were the benchmark that creators used to determine a camera’s quality. Today, megapixels do little to nothing to assess your camera’s quality unless you’re looking to print out large images that you capture on camera. Many experts suggest that the lens used to capture photos and video truly makes a difference in quality.

Interchangeable lenses are what make cameras such as DSLRs and Mirrorless attractive, even for beginners. As you get more comfortable behind the camera, you can purchase lenses as you see fit to boost your content’s quality without having to spring for a whole new camera.

A kit lens (the default lens that comes with a camera) will get the job done initially. However, as you grow and elevate your content, interchangeable lenses help you step up your photos and videos as needed.

When shopping for camera lenses, it’s essential to understand the following terms.

  • Aperture: Refers to the amount of light that passes through the lens, which is usually expressed as an “f-number” or “f-stop.” Aperture affects the exposure (brightness) of your photos and the depth of field, aka the sharpness of your images’ background and foreground.
  • Focal length: Expressed in millimeters, focal length determines the amount of the scene or subject captured and how magnified it will be.
  • Zoom lens: Offers versatility with a focal length that can be adjusted.
  • Prime lens: Has a fixed focal length and tends to be more compact than a Zoom lens.
  • Shutter speed: Refers to the amount of time a camera shutter is open before capturing an image expressed in seconds or a fraction of a second. A faster shutter speed allows you to catch a moving subject without blurring.

Weed out what functions are necessary to produce your content

Nowadays, cameras come with so many unique features that make creating content a seamless process. Of course, not all functions are necessary to achieve your specific home video goals or create high quality content; however, it’s best to keep a running list of those that are a “must-have” when choosing your camera. Examples of features to consider include:

  • Bluetooth and Wi-Fi: These connectivity options allow for easy file transfer (e.g. from your camera to your phone) and give the ability to control your camera remotely via a Bluetooth remote.
  • Mic input/output: Great video quality requires excellent audio. Having the option to add a mic may be essential when creating quality video content for your course in which you appear and talk on camera.
  • Rotating LCD screen: If you’re shooting content that requires you to be on camera, consider purchasing a camera equipped with a rotating screen to help you see what you’re recording in real-time. If anything is off, you’ll see upfront rather than being surprised after the fact.
  • Touchscreen: This allows you to explore your camera with your fingertips versus buttons (which sometimes can be tiny).
  • Eye + face tracking: This refers to the camera’s ability to track the subject while moving (without going out of focus) and can be helpful for creators during instructional home videos.
  • Auto modes: This allows your camera to determine the most optimal settings until you’re comfortable changing settings manually.

Check out the camera in action before adding it to your cart

Review videos on YouTube lay out the pros and cons of almost any camera on the market. Take your time and watch as many reviews as you can to see the camera in action and further determine what features are most important to you and what is most helpful for filming your videos at home and ensuring a successful online course.

Are you looking to purchase a camera to level up your online course material? Let’s chat about it in the comments below.