If you’ve ever watched a YouTuber in the conventional mould of YouTubers—the kind of frenetic, upbeat YouTuber who talks fast and stares directly into the camera in front of a carefully arranged background—you’ve probably noticed the way they frequently zoom in on their face. Perhaps you’ve even wondered why.
If you are an aspiring YouTuber, you hopefully have wondered why, since it is something that is used all over YouTube, implying there is a good reason for it.
But it is not enough to simply ape things you see if you want to be successful; you need to understand those things. Otherwise, you may find yourself using them wrong, and looking pretty silly in the process.
In this post, we are going to take a closer look (pun very much intended) at YouTubers’ tendency to zoom in and out during their videos, why they do it, what benefits it might have, and whether you should use it in your videos. So, without further preamble, let’s expose the truth!
Why do YouTubers zoom in and out? – Zooming in and out can help with the pace of the video and hide mistakes. You can also use it to add emphasis to something said like jokes or something dramatic. Zoom cuts can also make for a more distinct look and feel in some niches verses simple stand and shoot videos.
Why Do YouTubers Zoom in and Out?
There are several reasons why YouTubers work zooming in and out into their videos, and we’re going take a look at some specific examples in a second, but we can confidently say that almost all of the time you see a zoom-in used in a YouTube video, it is for aesthetic reasons. This is a very broad reason, of course, but it covers just about every instance of using a zoom-in in a video. The aesthetics of your video play a huge part in how successful they are, so it makes sense that a popular technique for editing would be used by a lot of YouTubers. So let’s take a look at why it’s popular.
Starting off with one of the least likely reasons a YouTuber might use this technique, zooming in and out can help to disguise cuts in the video. Any time you make a small cut in a video, it is incredibly obvious to the viewer if the scene remains the same. This is because you get an instant change from one frame to the next, and it is a little jarring for the viewer. If you change the next frame more substantially—for example, if you cut to a zoomed-in shot—the fact that the next frame is significantly different to the previous one makes the fact that there was a cut less obvious.
Now, we said that this is one of the least common reasons that a YouTuber might use zooming in their videos, and that is because jump cuts have become a regular part of YouTube, so there isn’t typically much of a need to hide them. Still, for the YouTubers who want to maintain a little more mystery about their editing process, this is one method to do that.
From time to time, a YouTuber will make a pointed facial expression. It may be during a video talking about current events, and the YouTuber has just mentioned someone doing something particularly silly, for example. In these instances, a quick zoom in on the YouTuber’s face adds emphasis to the moment, reinforcing the non-verbal opinion that the YouTuber is presenting.
This one is very similar to the above example of emphasis, with the main difference being that the expression the YouTuber is pulling does not have to be intentional. Sometimes the YouTuber will notice they have pulled an amusing face unintentionally and will use a zoom-in to draw attention to it. Usually, in these cases, it will be apparent that the YouTuber did not mean to make the face, and that they themselves are the butt of the joke.
If you’ve ever watched a mainstream news program, you might have noticed that they frequently cut from one angle to another. This is because having one continuous show for long periods quickly becomes monotonous, and the simple act of changing the camera angle breaks things up and makes it visually more interesting.
YouTubers faced the same problems when they started making vlog videos in the early days of the platform, but most people could not afford to purchase a multi-camera set up that would allow them to switch angles while recording. Indeed, many YouTubers can’t even afford a decent camera when they first start out, let alone multiple cameras.
Recording multiple takes of the same video with the camera in different positions is not a feasible alternative, especially since many videos are not scripted, and it would be almost impossible to ensure everything fit together coherently. And that is where zooming comes in.
In precisely the same way that cutting to different angles works, zooming in and out breaks up the content visually, adding a little interest and making things look less monotonous. And, since zooming can be done entirely digitally, it can be done with a single camera and one take, which is ideal for smaller YouTubers who don’t have thousands to spend on their camera setup.
Should I Use Zooming in my Videos?
The answer to this question is simple enough to say, not so simple to execute. Whether or not you should use zooming in your videos will be entirely determined by whether it adds anything to your content. If it doesn’t noticeably improve your content, there is no reason to add it.
Of course, improvement is a subjective term, and it may be that the “improvement” it makes is just that you prefer the look of the video. That is why we would always recommend getting second opinions whenever you can. Be sure to take those second opinions onboard, and get reasons for why your testers feel the way they do. It may be that, ultimately, you get second opinions on your new format and decide to go against the general consensus, but you should do so fully informed and aware of why the people who looked over your video said what they said.
If you are going to employ zooming in your videos, you might like a few tips on making the best use of it, so that’s exactly what we’ve got here.
Okay, we know we said near the top that one of the reasons zooming became prevalent on YouTube was because YouTubers didn’t have the money for expensive multi-camera setups, so saying “get a good camera” might seem like a bad tip. Remember, these are just ways to improve and get the best video you can; if you can’t use one of these tips, don’t worry. It doesn’t mean you can’t use zooming in your videos.
But yes, camera quality. We’re assuming that you’re not planning to zoom in and out in real-time as you record, which means you’ll be doing it in the edit. If you have ever zoomed in on a picture (and, in these days of powerful handheld phones, who hasn’t?) you might have noticed that the more you zoom in, the worse the quality of the picture gets.
The same thing applies to video, which is essentially just a lot of images shown quickly one after the other. The closer you digitally zoom in to your face, the grainier and more pixellated your video will come. If you are starting off with an already grainy video, it’s going to get very bad.
It’s worth noting that some YouTubers do this intentionally as a stylistic choice. You may want to do this as well, but we can’t really guide you on artistic choices.
Don’t Overdo It
This should be fairly obvious to most of you, but over-using the zoom-in will quickly become tiresome to your viewers. Having a lot of zoom-ins in a short space of time for comedic effect may be fine, but if you bounce in and out continually throughout the whole video, you are going to annoy your viewers.
Don’t Get Too Close (or Not Close Enough)
If you zoom in so far that the viewers are getting nothing but a blurry close-up of your nose-pores, or you barely zoom in at all, and the view doesn’t appear to have perceptibly changed, you risk losing any benefit you might have gotten from the zoom-in, as well as making your video seem awkward and badly put together.
The right amount of zoom will depend on the effect you are going for, but if you are barely zooming in at all, you may want to ask yourself if a zoom-in is right for what you are doing at that point in the video.
Other Editing Tricks To Use
Zooming in is but one trick up the sleeve of your average YouTuber, and making use of a wide variety of techniques can help to give your video that special sauce that separates it from other videos in your niche.
We’ve talked at length about zooming in, but what of the other methods you commonly see on YouTube channels? We’ll save the details for a post on editing, but we thought we’d at least touch on some of the other methods here.
Another technique that has become synonymous with YouTube is the jump cut. This involves cutting from one part of a video to another.
It is distinctive from a smash cut because it is not cutting to a new scene but rather skipping over something that has happened in this scene.
A common example is a vlogger talking directly to the camera who might cut out a bit they thought felt stilted or unnecessary, or even parts where they sneezed or messed up their lines. Jump cuts tend to add a sense of speed to a video since they cut out long pauses and things that might otherwise have broken up the flow of the content.
When you are transition from one scene to another, you might want to make use of interesting transitions, rather than just smash cutting from to the other. If you are using an application like Adobe Premiere, there will be a lot of built-in transitions that you can simply drag and drop into your video. Beware, however, these transitions can often appear tacky and cheap because of how often they have been used.
If you can tie your transitions into things that are happening in the video—a slide swipe timed to follow the swipe of a hand, for example—that can also add a nice touch to your content.
This is another technique that belongs firmly in the category of “don’t overdo it,” but the occasional sound effect can add a little flavour to your videos. It might be something like adding the sound of a smashing plate when something is knocked off a table. In this case, the more unlikely it is that the knocked off thing would make that much noise, the better.
If you, like many, use background music in your videos, don’t be afraid to make creative use of silence in your videos. If you are talking over the music, and you suddenly mute the music at a certain bit of speech, the abrupt silence draws the attention of the viewer. This can be used for emphasis, but like sound effects, should not be over-used.
Zooming in and out, like jump cuts, smash cuts, and a host of other visual tools is just another way to add a little visual interest to your videos.
It just happens to be a method that can be achieved without the need for expensive equipment or professional-grade software, which is a massive part of why it has become so prevalent on YouTube—a platform that has been responsible for countless people who could not afford an expensive camera in the beginning making their fortune.
Like all visual tools, zooming in should not be over-used, as it will quickly become tiresome for your viewers, and maybe the reason they switch off. And, once you have lost a viewer because your video irritated them, they are as good as gone for good on a platform with as many options as YouTube.