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Perhaps the only aspect of my business that is relatively new to me is YouTube. I’ve filmed professionally in my career, but video for YouTube is a completely different kettle of fish; especially when it comes to finding my style for YouTube videos.
One of the things I had in my mind when I started YouTube was that I need to separate myself from the competition.
Now if you look at your favorite YouTube channels, how different are they from one another? Really think about it.
Of course every personality is different, and that is the main way to distinguish YouTubers apart, but when you compare formats, lighting, studio setups etc. a lot of YouTubers are surprisingly similar.
There’s really nothing wrong with being similar, in fact it makes good sense. You follow what works. Viewers appreciate good style when they see it replicated with a personal twist.
So what I want to talk about is how to follow what works, as well as discussing if it still possible to be include a sense of originality? Can a viewer today still be able to see a clip of your video and instantly know who that video is made by?
The latter is what I am pursuing. I’m not obsessing over being original (which is key), but it is a question I make sure to ask myself.
Can You Still Be Original on YouTube?
The goal is to be original or unique, to stand out amongst the crowd where everyone is almost a copy of each other right?
But is that possible?
Can you create something that no one has ever done? Some people say every style, thought, creative output has been done already.
Check out a great book called ‘Steal like an Artist’ by Austin Kleon for more about that statement.
- By artist and writer Austin Kleon
- A collection of positive messages and exercises to realize your artistic side
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When you think about it, there are very select areas where you can be original. And there are areas where you have little room.
For example, you have to use a camera. A camera is a mass produced commodity. Unless you can create your own camera, you will be using a tool that will be used by countless others.
And that tool will heavily contribute to your video style and look.
Then there are tried and tested rules about lighting for video. There’s a lot of variability, but for a talking head shot a 3 point lighting system will 9 times out of 10 be the best lighting.
You can try to offer something different, but you have to keep in mind, viewers also like and expect certain rules to be adhered to.
When you are watching an interview with good 3 point lighting, you just expect it and because it’s what you expect, it’s not jarring. It’s comforting and not distracting.
Now imagine you change from 3 point lighting to something more dramatic with a different color lighting setup. More than likely it won’t work, it then distracts the viewer and you now have a video that is not working.
Now we can go on and on with this list, even as far as to say to be 100% unique you would need to speak a new language. But to create a new language you would need to use syntax and structure from previous languages etc.
So obviously there are times you want to stick to tried and tested waters.
There are rules and they can be broken, but it has to be welcome; if it’s distracting it won’t work.
Working out where you can be different is the hardest part, especially when you’re starting out. There are few channels that have accomplished this.
Casey Neistat is one of best examples of a channel that revolutionised a type of YouTube genre, vlogging.
Casey himself credits his style influences as great filmmakers like Wes Anderson and his own brother, Van Neistat; and you can really see this in his work.
In tech, all tech channels almost have the same look with a tiny bit of variety. There’s the YouTuber behind a desk and some depth of field blurring a few lights in the background.
This is a tried and test format and something you would expect from a tech YouTuber, any huge diversion from this formula and the tech video would possibly fail.
MKBHD is one channel that stands out from other tech channels by having possibly the highest quality production levels possible.
The use of robotics and RED cameras achieve visuals that are not able to be replicated by other tech channels easily.
The Best Way to Be Unique
So 100% originality is hard to achieve, if not impossible. But one factor that will not be able to be replicated fully is you.
Being yourself and focusing on your personality and style is the biggest differential, where everything else in the scene has little room for variety.
It needs to be highlighted that the question this article is based on is almost always asked at the start of a career in YouTube.
But at the outset, how to find your style for YouTube videos should not be at the forefront of your mind. You can ask the question to check yourself.
For instance if you are outright copying someone else wholesale then you need to question why you are doing this. Using part of a style you like is good practice, but not all of it!
Picasso said “Good artists borrow, great artists steal” but he meant stealing from here and there and making it your own. Not taking someone’s work wholesale and putting your name on the label.
Having said all that, in some genres of YouTube even personality and visual style is hard to differentiate, where some YouTubers are almost clones of each other.
But there are more ingredients to your style to consider.
Create a Cocktail Style
The technique I have tried to use is to look not just to YouTube for what works aesthetically, but in other areas like film and TV.
I look at what draws my attention and visually what I prefer. Then I’ll break down why and what I like about a video, technique, or style and what I can learn and take from it.
This can be so many different things, from framing, color rendition, focal length, studio setup etc.
The key is to take a little from here and there and this Frankenstein concoction should yield something slightly new that no one has seen before.
If it’s tech, you’ll still need good lighting, a desk, professional cameras and a wide and macro lens, because that’s what is expected when someone goes to watch a tech review.
But if you can also add elements from other areas and styles that you like this might be enough to distinguish yourself from the next tech YouTube channel.
There’s also the idea of taking something you feel could be bettered. For instance I employ a lot of animated effects, but I’m certain I have never seen it used in exactly the way I am using it.
But even so it’s not a new technique, I think one of the best influences is Bruno Mars’ ‘That’s what I like’ video:
But I could see so much more latitude for creating something new. In Mars’ video the effects are simplistic effects, yet still fantastic.
I wanted to have my animations take on a life of their own and use them to also add more emphasis to emotions and expressions. In comic books this is called onomatopoeia.
One of my favorite films is The Mask starring Jim Carrey. In that film Carrey and the VFX team are able to use the mask to add a new way of conveying expression for more caricature and emphasis. It’s just a fun way of translating something to the viewer.
It would be easier to convey emotion using my regular face, but using animations gives my emotions an entirely new dimension.
This is just one aspect of my visual style and I have so many more ideas of how to improve and expand on this style.
The way you can know is if you’re on the right track and getting closer to originality is when you have to discover the steps to creating what you want.
When you have to work it out for yourself.
There are no YouTube tutorials for my visual style, most of the techniques I employ are all created by me. I have still used YouTube to learn certain aspects, but what I mean is there is no one all encompassing tutorial for ‘how to create this effect’.
I hope the ideas in this article coupled with a bit of insight into my own path to creating a style will help you shape your own distinctive YouTube style.
For most, this will take over 100 videos, maybe even years. I really want to stress it should not be paramount in your thinking, just something to check yourself when out creating.
Over time your individual style will surely merge, there’s no point rushing it. It takes time, but hopefully you will notice the subtle changes that over time add up.
If you’re just starting your YouTube journey check out this article here. And as you grow your business bookmark my article: ‘How to Start a Creative Business‘ for help with every step of the way to make sure your business grows successfully and fast.
Also check out my YouTube channel too.
Artist / Photographer / Videographer