What makes a YouTube video look professional? A lot is based on the skill and experience of the creator, but gear also plays a role. The trick is knowing what to buy, when and from where. That way, you can maximize your investment and add polish to your content — even with limited resources. Here’s how to take your content from amateur to professional with the right gear.

The starting point

If you’re new to content creation, all you need to get started is a camera and a microphone. Luckily, most laptops, smartphones and tablets have these video production tools built-in, so you can get started right away. You can do without lights, camera support and audio equipment for now. Your content might not look or sound the greatest, but you’ll still learn the essentials of shooting and editing.

But what if you’ve already got the essentials down and you’re ready to add more production value to your content? That’s where gear starts to matter. But gear can get expensive, so you’ll need to be strategic about your investments. Buying too much new gear or the wrong gear also contributes to a cycle of unsustainable consumption, making it even more important to consider your purchases carefully. For a more affordable and sustainable alternative to buying new, consider shopping for used video production gear on platforms like MPB.

What to upgrade

Let’s look at the different types of equipment you’ll need as a content creator and when to invest in each category.

Upgrade to a dedicated video camera

Shooting on your smartphone is convenient, but it also has its limitations. Once you have the basics of shooting and editing down, you’ll be grateful for the additional functionality of a dedicated video camera. When choosing a camera, think about both its usability and image quality. You’ll want a camera that fits your typical shooting style and gives you the look you want. 

Compact fixed-lens cameras are lightweight and easy to pack, making them popular with vloggers on the go. However, many creators opt for an interchangeable-lens DLSR or mirrorless camera for more creative control over the image. Camcorders and action cameras are great for sports, auto and other types of action content. On the other end of the spectrum, cinema cameras excel at capturing beautiful images. However, they are often cumbersome to take out of the studio. In the end, the type of camera you buy will depend on the type of content you make and the aesthetic you want to cultivate on your channel. 

Build your lens collection

DSLR, mirrorless and cinema cameras all let you swap out lenses according to the shooting situation and desired creative effect. If you upgrade to one of these cameras, you’ll also need to start building your lens collection.

For your first lens, look for a mid-range zoom that covers focal lengths from around 35 mm to 70 mm. Often referred to as a walking-around lens, this focal range approximates the field of view of the human eye, making it easy to quickly capture what you see. After that, choose new lenses based on your shooting style. If you shoot a lot of videos of local cuisine, for example, you may want a wider lens. Or, if you consistently wish you were closer to your subject, a longer telephoto lens may be the right choice.

Improve your audio

It’s often said that audio quality is just as important as video quality; that’s why a microphone upgrade is next on our list. For a simple upgrade, opt for a camera-mounted omnidirectional microphone. This will improve the overall quality of the audio, but you’ll still capture some background noise. If that’s an issue, choose a camera-mounted or boom-mounted shotgun microphone. These long tube-shaped mics reject sounds from the sides and back, which is why they’re often used in filmmaking. Consider a desktop USB microphone if you record at your desk and don’t mind the mic being in frame. 

Finally, the most discreet option for almost any situation is a wireless lavalier microphone system. These tend to capture better audio since they can be clipped onto your clothing, putting them extremely close to the sound source.

Add camera support

Steady camera work makes your vlog look more polished — and avoids inducing motion sickness in your viewer. A stack of books works to prop up your camera for static shots. Eventually, though, you’ll want the flexibility and functionality of proper camera support.

The most basic form of support is the tripod. For video production, look for a fluid-head tripod to capture smooth pans and tilts. However, if your content requires you to move around a lot, consider more mobile support, like a selfie stick or handheld gimbal. Do your research and choose a support option that fits your production process.

Add lighting

Lighting sets the tone for your video, but it can be challenging to get right when you don’t have the right tools. On top of that, cameras need light to capture a clear image. Unfortunately, normal household lights often look strange on camera; they create unwanted color casts, harsh shadows and annoying banding effects. Plus, the alternative — relying on natural light — means you can only record during the day outdoors or near a bright window.

To end your dependence on the sun, turn to soft LED panels. These provide soft, even lighting and can be tuned to match indoor or daylight light sources. These come in a variety of shapes and sizes, including the popular ring light. If you want more dramatic lighting effects with harder shadows, look for spotlight fixtures. You can always add diffusers to these if you want softer light.

Round out your kit with useful accessories

That covers most creators’ core video production kit, but you may want to invest in a few other accessories. For instance, it’s always handy to have some extra SD cards, more batteries or a better gear bag. You’ll figure out what else you need as you continue to make content.

When to upgrade

When deciding which piece of gear to upgrade next, think about what will improve your content the most. For example, if you shoot a lot of your content outside, you may struggle to manage wind noise in your audio. In that case, a good directional microphone with a windscreen might take priority over a camera upgrade. Going through the production process a few times with the gear you already have will help you identify these pain points.

Why buy used video gear from MPB

Now that you know what to buy and when, it’s time to start shopping. To find the best deals, shop for used video gear on MPB. You’ll also be helping the planet and the creative community out at the same time.

MPB is committed to sustainability. The platforms’ 100 percent circular business model ensures affordable gear stays in the hands of creators instead of getting tossed. In addition, all of MPB’s packaging is 100 percent plastic free, and the cloud-based platform uses 100 percent renewable electricity. MPB aims to be net zero carbon in all areas by 2035.

Moreover, MPB offers deep discounts on a wide range of photo and video gear. On average, used gear from MPB costs a third less than new, and MPB’s data-driven pricing ensures the right price on all items. The platform lists over 16,000 pieces of gear in the US and over 47,000 globally in a searchable, easy-to-browse database. Plus, over 2,000 products new products are added weekly. For those looking for the latest tech, newly released products are available within an average of three months.

Finally, when you shop for used gear on the MPB platform, you’ll get exactly what you expect. All products shown are the exact products you receive and include a six-month warranty. Also, MPB product specialists inspect every item to ensure they meet expectations.

To browse MPB’s vast collection of used photo and video gear, head to www.mpb.com.