How I Film My Tutorial Videos for YouTube (plus save 20% on Arkon phone mounts!)

Cathy ZielskeTutorials35 Comments

It feels like just yesterday when I posted my very first process card making video on YouTube. In reality, it was just over a year ago this month when I posted the first installment of Cathy Makes a Card (later, I dropped the Cathy Makes a Card nomenclature to be a bit more more descriptive in my video titles.)

First things first: you should know that I film with an iPhone 7+. In the early days of my card videos, I decided for budgetary reasons to make do with what I had because, well, money. As much as I would like to have a sweet video camera with a ceiling mount, I can’t really justify the expense and so, iPhone 7+ it is. And really, it’s a pretty sweet little video camera and fully capable of doing everything I need it to do.

But I’ve struggled finding the perfect set up for filming. I’ve filmed in an upstairs bedroom. I’ve filmed in my kitchen. I’ve filmed in my craft/dining room. It took me a while to realize that if I was going to rely solely on natural light, I was going to be an incredibly frustrated videographer. Enter my first purchase in the quest for better quality video: inexpensive studio lights.

I learned about this light kit from my friend Jen Gallacher (who has a really great post about studio lighting she recently shared!), and I’m so glad I bought these lights! I rarely use the smaller stand, but the two larger ones pretty much just hang out in my craft/dining room most of the time. Basically you point the umbrellas (the top sides are what should be facing your project) at your filming area to get a nice, even, diffused light.

The next thing I purchased that has really changed my process is this Pro Phone Stand from Prior to using this mount, I was using an old and trusted tripod that had the ability to bend at a 90 degree angle for table top filming, but it was limited on how high off the table it could be set up. This Pro Phone Stand telescopes up and down, and it has proven to give me all the range I need when filming card or scrapbooking tutorials. One caveat, however, is that I cannot place it on my main table because my table is SO stinkin’ rickety (it’s literally a 115 year old antique) that it will vibrate my entire camera with every move I make.

Because of the vibration, I use a two-step stool from made by Cosco to set the mount onto. I also use the step stool for all of my straight down photography, as well. I use a five-pound weight to place on the base of the mount, to make sure it doesn’t tip or move.

I was using an app called Reflector to wirelessly turn my laptop into a video monitor, thereby enabling me to really see what I am filming at any given moment without having to stand up and look through my phone’s monitor. I’m updating this post to say that I have ditched the wireless set up. After thoroughly testing it out, I’m not happy with Reflector at all (when using a third-party video app), which I do. It might work better with the native iPhone app, but it kept losing the connection, messing up my entire filming process. Live and learn.

Now I’m using the OBS Studio software on my laptop and using a lightning cable to connect my phone directly to my laptop. This eliminates any dropped connection.

There is ONE more thing, and this is an iPhone app that is also making a world of difference: MoviePro. What is so great about MoviePro? It let’s you control focus, exposure and white balance individually and lets you lock them down so you don’t have to deal with your iPhone reading the light and making all those weird shifts. This is the main reason not to use the video app that is built into iPhone. (This video offers a really great overview of Movie Pro.) It took me awhile to find an app that I liked for filming and this one, so far, is my favorite. And the best news? It’s $5.99. (Android users: I do not have any first hand info on best apps to record video on Android devices, however, I found this link that might be helpful.)

For a more controlled light, I’m finding that filming at night is pretty sweet. I just pull the two lights closer to the table and film. This video was shot at night with the lights and using my new wireless monitor set up: (Note: click on over to YouTube to see a better representation of the quality. I’m never sure how WordPress embeds look.)

I share this because I have had a lot of help from wonderful members of this card making community (Yeah, I’m looking at YOU Jennifer McGuire!) and I just want to share what I have learned and encourage others who want to film their creative efforts on a relatively small budget!

I also get asked about my microphone which I use to add voice overs after my clips are edited together. I use a Rode Podcaster kit, which was not cheap, but it has been a workhorse for me. I’ve been using this for about 3 years now and have recorded all of my class voice over audio with it. Although I will say this: my audio is not as good now that I record in iMovie. iMovie has zero ability to do anything other than raise or lower your levels (at least not that I am aware of!). I’m presently researching a better audio program. That said, I stand by this mic. It’s been a great tool for me.

If you’re serious about audio, consider adding a pop filter. I will say, however, that is only if you have a problem with plosives. I have that problem, ergo, I need a pop filter.

One additional thing I use for all of my photography, and even for blocking light coming in from my craft/dining room window is my Wescott 4-in-1 Reflector Kit. I’ve had this for 15 years and have used it religiously to bounce and reflect light where I need it. I will place the reflector on the floor, silver side facing the project an it will flood the area I’m shooting with light. I always use the silver side because I prefer a cooler light. I stand on the step stool and shoot down.

For taking photos of my projects that I use for my video openers, I shoot with a Canon 5D Mark II (here is the current model) and a Canon L-Series 24-70mm lens. I’ve had my Canon 5D for many years now and am very happy with it, however, if it should ever die, I would look strongly at the Canon 7D.

SAVE ON ARKON MOUNTS! The good people at are offering my readers a 20% discount off any of their phone mounts. Just use the code czdesign at checkout! (It’s not case sensitive.)

I hope this info has been helpful! I’m sure my set up will evolve over time, but I’m just happy that I have something that is working well, finally!


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Cathy ZielskeHow I Film My Tutorial Videos for YouTube (plus save 20% on Arkon phone mounts!)

35 Comments on “How I Film My Tutorial Videos for YouTube (plus save 20% on Arkon phone mounts!)”

  1. #1
    Susan Ringler

    Oh my! Lots to absorb, Cathy, but so helpful. Thanks for this post full of tips already explored so we don’t have to struggle!

    1. #1.1
      Cathy Zielske

      Glad you liked it! As I said, I’m not an expert, but I really wanted to have better looking videos. The white balance shifting crap really bugged me! And the iPhone’s native video app lets you lock exposure but it also locks focus, which I didn’t want. So… it’s a continual learning process for sure!

  2. #3

    Wow it’s a lot to think about. But I appreciate that you compiled all of this into one post. The research can be overwhelming. And trying out things without knowledge can be pricey. Thank you!

  3. #5
    Melissa Miller

    Thanks for the info on Reflector! I constantly struggle with wondering if I’m still in frame, so this is going to be so helpful. I gave it a quick test run using the free trial option. I was so impressed, I immediately purchased it!

    1. #5.1
      Cathy Zielske

      Yeah, it’s a great app. Funny thing is, I’ve used it for a number of years to record my iPhone for tutorials for other things but I never made the connection that I could use it in that way. Like I said, game changer for me!

  4. #6
    Kathleen McConnell

    Wow, Cathy, this is of the most thorough and helpful articles I’ve read during my fledgling year as a cardmaker and blogger. Believe me, I’ve done a lot of searching. Thank you!

    1. #6.1
      Cathy Zielske

      Well that’s wonderful to hear! I have found this community of crafters to be SUPER generous with sharing info and I want to share as well!

  5. #7
    Linda Rivera

    Hi Kathy
    Thank you so much for this tutorial, this information is invaluable to me and many others. The struggle is real. Thanks again and bless your kind heart ❤️

  6. #8
    Ishani glad I came here from your IG post. I DO want to start making videos but I didn’t know where to start. Thank you for this great post. I am so glad to be part of this community, which is so supportive and kind. Everyone loves to share.

    1. #8.1
      Cathy Zielske

      Hi Ishani! So glad you stopped by! And yes, the people in this community seem to really support and encourage and I really want to give back, as well!

  7. #9
    Caly Person

    Thanks so much for sharing this! I have the Akron mount and love it. I love learning about the different apps that are available to improve videos-like MoviePro! Such an invaluable post!

    1. #9.1
      Cathy Zielske

      I think this app is a good one. I had tried an app called FilMic and videos kept disappearing after I’d filmed them. That didn’t endear me to that app at all! lol.

  8. #10

    Great post Cathy. I have been using a different app for videos however I’m not sure it’s the one for me. I just can’t seem to keep my videos consistent so I will definitely be trying this app. Thanks for all the tips.

  9. #11
    Tina Hicks

    Thank you! A million times thank you! You have just solved the filming problems I was having. My Bd & Mother’s Day are coming up!
    I know what I’m getting ? I love your videos & your work!

  10. #13
    Maggie B

    FANTASTIC info Cathy! You’ve taken so much of the guesswork out of it for everyone and shared what you know. Thanks and I hope you’re having an awesome week. ~HUGS~

    1. #13.1
      Cathy Zielske

      Happy to share! I’m sure it will change at some point but for now, I finally have something that seems to work!

  11. #14

    Yes!!! This is perfect timing! I just started watercoloring and want to video my process. Thank you for being so informative and transparent about how easy it really can be!

  12. #15
    Priscilla Joseph

    A month or so ago you told me you were using an app called”FilMic
    Pro” to film. Is what you mentioned in today’s email something different?
    Also, do you know if the “Reflector” allows you to monitor what you’re filming on an iPad vs a laptop?

    1. #15.1
      Cathy Zielske

      Okay, I WAS using Filmic Pro and then I filmed a whole video and half the clips literally disappeared. This happened two more times and I said, “I’m done!” So I found MoviePro and that seems much more straightforward!

      I would assume that yes, Reflector does let you do that, but I would email them and ask.

  13. #16
    Priscilla Joseph

    A month or so ago you told me you were using an app called “FilMicPro” to film. Is this something different than what you mentioned today? Also, do you know if the “Reflector” app allows you to monitor what you’re filming via an iPad versus a laptop?

    1. #16.1
      Cathy Zielske

      I should add that my issues with Filmic could have been user error but it was really frustrating the way it managed your filmed clips. MoviePro is more straightforward. And cheaper.

  14. #20

    Thank you so much!! I have been searching high & low for advice on just this topic. You are so generous to share your knowledge and that discount!

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