Shooting video for social media – strategy, techniques and kit

Social media expert Harry Seaton shares his tips and tricks for filming successful social-first content and explains why the Canon EOS C70 and EOS R5 are ideal tools for the job.
A young man dressed in black stands on a street corner, holding a Canon EOS R5 camera at chest height and looking down into its LCD screen.

It's important for professional videographers to avoid dismissing platforms such as TikTok, says content creator and marketing director Harry Seaton. "TikTok and Instagram reels are not just people dancing anymore. There are some very serious, very talented, very famous filmmakers and editors who now choose to showcase their skills there." © Harry Seaton

Content creator Harry Seaton started self-shooting busking videos for social media when he was just 16. Today, after launching two media marketing agencies, he is an expert at producing strategic and creative content across a variety of social platforms.

Here, he shares his tips for delivering professional social media video content.

Creative control

Before shooting anything, it's important for today's videographers to understand the market they're in. The creative relationship between videographers and their clients has become more fluid, Harry explains, but there are still challenges for those looking for creative control. "A lot of marketing managers are on social media, meaning they see filmmakers as almost an all-in-one, from ideation to creation," he says. "But legacy brands, especially in trickier industries such as finance, are still giving strict briefs."

People hoping to be involved in the creative process from start to finish should look to work with startups, Harry suggests. "They may have the money to be a major client, and are often a bit more open."

Working with legacy brands doesn't have to mean sacrificing creative influence, though. "Making recommendations right from the start is the best way to find out how open they are to ideas," he says. "Whether that's as simple as the way you grade footage, or whether it's creative direction as well – you have to get that in, right from day one."


Building an audience

A social content journey begins with a platform-centric mindset. "When it comes to brands, it's easiest to work backwards and start thinking about basic customer profiles," says Harry. "From there you can think, 'that type of person is typically on Instagram – so I need to make sure the videos I deliver are square, there are various different cuts, they're less than 60 seconds, and maybe throw in a 15-second piece for an Instagram story'."

Although there is no set formula for a successful social content campaign, Harry believes transparency consistently gets traction. "There's a huge trend now around building businesses in public," he says. "A lot of CEOs and founders of startups will have public-facing profiles, where they talk about everything that goes on behind the scenes – some of the larger brands are starting to adopt this a bit more as well. Go behind the scenes and show exactly how certain things are made, because there's a lot of interest there."

A camera monitor screen shows a woman in pink workout gear leaning forward towards the ground.

The Canon EOS R5 features Dual Pixel CMOS AF II with Face/Eye Detection, ensuring that images stay sharp and enabling impressive pull-focus transitions in all video modes. © Ivan D'Antonio

Picking the right kit

For Harry, the right photography kit boils down to functionality. "Can I send things to my smartphone? Does it boot up quickly? Does it have good autofocus? The Canon EOS R5 and EOS C70 tick all of those boxes," he says.

Social-first content requires the kind of versatility you can get from a hybrid camera such as the EOS R5. "If you're making something for a client that they could easily use on TV and can be broken up into social video without destroying their computer CPU, plus you can also take fantastic photos on the day – that really is the full package," Harry says.

The other major benefit of the EOS R5 is its speed and manoeuvrability on set. "You can miss a lot of footage on shoots where there are people involved and things are happening at a fast pace," he adds. "The setup can be your worst nightmare. The EOS R5 has none of those issues thanks to its small size, in-body image stabilisation (IBIS) capabilities and subject tracking."

A technician wearing white gloves cleans the sensor of a Canon camera.

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The rear screen of a Canon EOS C70 showing a woman being filmed with her arms raised behind her head.

According to Harry, there is a growing trend for less scripted and therefore less predictable shooting for hosted YouTube content, and features such as the Canon EOS C70's Face/Head tracking AF are pivotal. "With unpredictable movement and behaviour, making sure you're always locked on is absolutely vital," he says.

The Canon EOS C70 would be Harry's go-to camera for slightly longer social content such as his music video work. "I think a lot of pro filmmakers would struggle to tell the difference between footage from the EOS C70 and a camera costing upwards of €50,000 when it's used by the right person and graded correctly," he says.

The built-in ND filters on the EOS C70 are easily the standout feature for Harry: "You don't have to miss shots because you're outside and the light changes. If you're inside a studio and the sun suddenly shines through a window, you can miss something great. Being able to press a couple of buttons and have it look exactly how you want is hugely underrated."

When it comes to lenses, Harry favours the Canon RF 28-70mm F2L USM. As a self-declared "one lens" shooter, he feels this covers all his focal-length needs. The IBIS in the EOS R5 works wonders with this lens, he says, enabling him to focus on the shot without having to worry about lengthy post-production tweaks.

A finger pressing the ND filter button on the side of a Canon EOS C70 video camera.

The Canon EOS C70 features an ultra-thin built-in ND filter unit which supports 2/4/6/ and an extended 8/10 stops, making it possible to use a wide aperture to create a shallow depth of field even in bright shooting conditions.

Choosing the right settings

When it comes to camera settings, Harry has some simple rules. "If you're using a Canon camera, where the colours are really nice, I think you want to leave the picture profile off," he says. "When I'm outside and manual exposure can be a real pain, I usually tailor around my aperture so I can maintain that really nice depth of field. I use Aperture priority with a faster shutter. I know a fast shutter speed is a bit of a taboo and often people want to keep it low for that cinematic motion, but I like being able to have the option to switch to a very smooth, slow mode later because you've captured so much data."

Almost everything Harry does boils down to efficiency. The Super 35mm aspect ratio, as found on the EOS C70, is his go-to format. "The nature of social videos means you could be filming in one place at one moment, and then in a tiny room the next. I shoot using Super 35mm with a zoom lens, which covers me for every situation," he says. With the full-frame EOS R5, users have the choice of shooting in 4K at a 1.6x crop, which is similar in size to Super 35mm, and at frame rates of up to 59.94fps.

"My favourite custom button is focus zoom," says Harry. "I constantly zoom into a shot and make sure it's in perfect focus. If I'm filming social content that's also going to run as an ad on a larger screen, I sometimes map picture profile settings. That way I can switch in and out of Canon Log and use no picture profile if the light conditions go a bit crazy and I know I'm going to have to recover a shot in post."

A filmmaker changing an RF lens on the Canon EOS R5.

The benefits of using Canon RF lenses for video

Canon's innovative RF lenses offer super-fast focusing and outstanding optical quality, making them an ideal option for filmmakers.

Keeping the edit in mind

Social-first is a vertical world, Harry says, and it is important to shoot vertically rather than cropping in post. If you do the latter, "you'll always be annoyed with yourself, because you'll have set up the shot horizontally to include certain things that you then lose in the crop. If you're filming horizontally, you're not going to get your subjects shoulder to shoulder. So when it comes to cropping, you're going to be constantly having to flip between an angle of one person and the angle of the other – you'll never have them together."

Harry also thinks it can be beneficial to shoot B-roll separately. "I prefer to break it in two, so you're more focused on what the B-roll is trying to achieve. You can miss key A-roll moments if you're trying to shoot both simultaneously."

Harry's final piece of advice might be tough to swallow for the professional perfectionist, but makes sense for an industry that demands constant output. "4K isn't the be-all and end-all. It's a fantastic feature when you have the time or when you are making a tutorial – to give yourself extra room to crop in without losing quality," he explains. "But if I'm making social content and doing it quickly, 1080p is always my go-to. This is why Canon is so good – the colours are fantastic straight out of the box, so you can keep the file sizes small but still get great quality because of the power of the camera."

A Canon EOS C70 camera mounted vertically to film a seated woman in portrait mode.

In addition to the tripod mounting holes on the bottom of the Canon EOS C70, another mounting hole on the handgrip makes the camera ideal for prolonged shooting of vertical content – whether mounted to a tripod or on a gimbal.

Post-production tips

Harry tends to add slo-mo in post-production using Adobe Premiere Pro.* "I think one of the handiest things is building a project into nested sequences, as it can often get quite messy – especially if you work with tons of different clips," he says. "Sometimes if a clip is at reduced speed, it's very hard to notice. Having it in nested sequences gives you a bit more flexibility."

Jump cuts are an established technique both to save time and to keep edits punchy. "With social, there's no expectation about how much space you leave after a sentence," Harry explains. "I will zoom in heavily onto the audio section of my footage and make crops the moment I see the wave dip; the moment I see it come back up again I cut the footage and drag it back together."

Though this slightly aggressive style of edit might seem alien to pros with cinematic leanings, it's vital when making content that can actually get on social platforms. "YouTube shorts, Instagram reels – they're capped at 60 seconds," Harry says. "You'd be surprised how many seconds jump cuts save. And every second counts."

*Adobe and Adobe Premiere are either registered trademarks or trademarks of Adobe in the United States and/or other countries.

Jack Fittes

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