Tools for Shooting Awesome Travel Video Footage

Becky Brooks


I might have a slight advantage when it comes to creating Animoto videos. Heading up the Customer Owner Department at Animoto, I get to see all the ways our customers use our product. And this, without a doubt, has inspired me to create some pretty sweet videos of my own.

Vacations, family gatherings, and parties are when I’m most likely to be in “photographer mode.” Then, I take all the images and video clips I’ve captured and turn them into Animoto videos that I’ll rewatch an embarrassing number of times. Over the years, I’ve experimented a lot with the type of photos and videos that I shoot, and thought I’d share some of my favorite tricks and tools.

Last year, I took a trip to Costa Rica. I knew I wanted to not only take cool photos, but also awesome video clips. The addition of video clips brings so much more “wow factor” to Animoto videos. In Costa Rica, I used a variety of apps, cameras, and lenses. Here’s a rundown of some of the tools I used that I hope will inspire you on your next trip. You can watch my finished Animoto video at the end of this post.

Time-lapse on iPhone

Time-lapse video can be amazing on trips – particularly for showing sunsets or capturing nature over time. I use it on trips a lot. I just set up my phone somewhere steady and it takes a photo every couple of seconds on its own while I relax.

Newer iPhones (iOS 8 and above) feature a time-lapse setting in the camera app (see the image below). If you have an older phone, you can download a time-lapse app.

time-lapse iphone

Note that your phone will have to sit for 20-30 minutes to get about 30 seconds of video. That’s why it’s important to make sure your phone is fully charged, that the phone won’t be knocked over, and that the composition of your shot is on point. When shooting a time-lapse video, or any video for that matter, make sure to set up your phone to shoot in widescreen (aka no vertical video clips!). Landscape always looks much better in the final video than portrait shots.

I used the in-camera time lapse feature recently to shoot the following footage of a rainbow:

GoPro Hero

I have yet to master using this piece of equipment, but GoPro makes it easy to take great looking footage, even if you’re an amateur. I use this device for point of view (POV) shots while surfing or doing other action sports. A waterproof case comes in handy for this. GoPro’s YouTube channel has some epic examples of capture that I’d one day like to emulate. Here’s an example:

Most of my photos on any given trip are taken with an iPhone due to sheer convenience. They also just look awesome (see below). The same goes for most video taken on an iPhone. Just be aware of the light. Great photos and video can be taken on any device so long as the light is great.

iphone photo

Instagram Video

I love the ability to add filters to my videos, to make them look cooler or give them a certain mood that I love. Now that Instagram supports landscape images and video, I don’t need my video clips to be square,so it’s easy to upload them in widescreen, add a filter, and then use them in Animoto once they’re saved to my device.

If you’ve got square videos on Instagram, note that some Animoto video styles, like Slide, stretch square videos to widescreen.

Canon 60D

I bought this DSLR camera four years ago and have taken a crazy amount of photos with it. It also captures HD video. The video taken with a DSLR can be shaky (depending on the lens). I have brought a monopod on vacations to capture stable video, but just found it to be too cumbersome to carry, which is why I tend to take video clips with it when I can rest the camera on something that is totally stable.

50mm 1.4 lens

I use a 50mm 1.4 lens with my DSLR. This lens gives that nice bokeh, shallow depth of field and can also be used to take great photos and video in fairly low-light situations. It can be shaky though. I think I’ll be investing in a 35mm soon, since the wider the lens, the less shake you get when handholding your camera for video.

With all that said, I usually only end up using about 15 images and fewer than 10 clips to create a recap of my trip. I used to include every photo, but I’ve found that less is more.

Check out my final Costa Rico video, created using photos and videos shot using the equipment listed above:

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