Nov 18, 2021
When it comes to video content, having a good camera, clean lighting, and crisp audio all matter a lot to viewers. So if someone skips a video or scrolls past it on their feed, it’s safe to assume that one of those things didn’t meet their expectations.
Unfortunately, it’s dangerous to think that only those three points matter. “Presentation” is a broad category, from the focal length of your camera to the subject matter to how you color grade footage. Every single piece of the puzzle matters to someone.
In fact, most of the small choices you make during video production will impact the viewer’s experience. Some of those are obvious and easy to predict. Others are things we take for granted, whether you’re a veteran content creator or someone just starting to build your channel.
But there’s one piece of your presentation that is unmissable, something that will always affect a viewer in one way or another. Something in the background that’s easy for you to take for granted.
Yup, today we’re talking about your YouTube backdrop.
First and foremost, we should probably spend some time talking about when to use (or not use) backdrops for YouTube videos.
You obviously aren’t going to be thinking about backdrops if you shoot and edit, say, short films. But for any project where you or another subject will sit in front of a camera, then chances are good you’d benefit from a carefully constructed “set” to work with.
Because that’s what it is, really. In the same way that an office or studio says a lot about the person working there, the location where you shoot your content can help you present yourself to your audience. It’s a way to establish a connection or pique someone’s interest, even without having to say a word or show off your great footage.
It also provides a sense of visual consistency. Check out any successful vlogger or social media influencer, and while they might travel to exotic islands or bustling cities, most videos stand and/or end in a familiar studio — the “home base” for their content.
You want your content to invite people in. What better way to do that than by investing in a stylish YouTube backdrop that viewers will come to subconsciously associate with your channel?
Content and keywords can help get people to discover your content on YouTube, but your presentation is what will pull a viewer to watch your videos from start to finish. And that’s the real foundation of any successful channel.
Your choice of a YouTube backdrop has that effect on people. You want something that draws viewers in without distracting them. In some cases, that might be an awesome studio with guitars or posters lining the walls. It might also be something simple and clean, with a few shelves lined with potted plants and leather bound books.
Either way, you’re using your surroundings (in this case, the space behind you) to create a mood or evoke an emotion. It’s like set design, only focused on where you work on your YouTube content instead of staging a project on a location.
Clearly, that means you’ve got a few different options when it comes to creating a stylish YouTube backdrop for your videos. And while you could always create something high-tech with a green screen, let’s look at the more traditional ways to improve your presentation level.
(We’ll cover a few DIY options too, because it never hurts to save money as a content creator.)
But first, on with the cool examples:
This particular YouTube studio screams two things: “style” and “expensive.” You can look at any wall in that room and have an idea of the sort of personality you’d expect David to bring to his videos.
But you also can tell it was a backdrop several years — and several thousand dollars — in the making. And while it’s important to infuse your studio space with your personality, not everyone wants to build toward the “streamer man cave” we just saw.
Here’s what the alternative might look like:
Everything about this particular YouTube backdrop feels homey, doesn’t it? But in addition to getting a behind-the-scenes look at how Gillian arranged her space, she also gives tips into the thought process she used to turn her background into a part of her content.
It’s a clever look into the mind of a successful YouTuber (with more than 500k subs), and pretty much a perfect counterpoint to how David Foster crafted his YouTube backdrop.
Maybe you don’t have the money to buy a bunch of stuff for your backdrop. Or you don’t have a bunch of expensive gear and fancy decor laying around your home studio that you could grab for this project.
That’s fine. In fact, with enough creative ingenuity, you can come up with a great DIY Youtube backdrop that looks like you’re filming on an expensive set. (And yes, it’s totally fine to use a little bit of that “smoke and mirrors” magic if it means you can create better content for your audience.)
Here’s one example of a simple approach for creating a backdrop that will give your videos a cool ambiance and look as professional or big-budget as a full production studio:
Obviously, a big piece of making a DIY YouTube backdrop is the lighting. We’ve spent a lot of time talking about lighting in other posts, so we won’t dive too deep here. But whether you’re looking for a lighting kit to start or want some affordable (and maybe even homemade) alternatives, we’ve got you covered.
The point is, once again, that presentation matters. Dreaming up a cool YouTube backdrop is important, and so is actually figuring out a way to build, install, or arrange it all.
Here’s another example, showing how Think Media took a perfectly average room in someone’s house and turned it into a YouTube studio:
You may not want to install a fake wall in your house or apartment, but the idea is cool enough to think about. And there are lots of examples you can find of people using a green screen — or even a bedsheet — to create the illusion of a different space than where they actually are.
Sometimes, you just need to tap into that movie magic. Except instead of setting the scene on a film set, you’re taking your own place, grabbing whatever knick knacks or furniture you want, and building into your very own DIY YouTube backdrop.
Showing off all these examples might get your creativity flowing. Maybe you’re envisioning which corner of your basement can become your slick new “studio.” Or if you’re lucky enough to have a dedicated space already, then you might be trying to find ways to tie in your personality or your creative process into that room.
Let’s check out a few of the most common types of YouTube backdrops creators use, and think through a few variations if you’re looking for some DIY ways to mix it up.
Any filmmaker who’s shot many indoor locations is almost definitely familiar with the idea of using some sort of fabric to change shot composition. (And no, we aren’t talking about something to reflect or absorb light.)
But the good news is you don’t have to buy some fancy “backdrop fabric.” Literally anything in your house could work — bedsheets, blankets, even a giant beach towel. You could go with a simple white, find a fun pattern, buy a semi-transparent sheet, etc.
You can find examples of this in each of the videos above. One way to transform a flat, average space into a visually interesting set is by changing the lights.
Maybe you run some fairy lights behind your new semi-transparent backdrop. Or grab a box of Christmas decorations and run some string lights. Or get really serious and run some LED strips under or around your workstation.
Mix it up until you find a way to draw attention to the things you want the viewer to notice in your space.
A personalized collage adds a lot of “you” into the background, inviting the audience into your life as well as your content. You can create a photo montage, or a collection of posters, or some artsy paintings.
Find the things you’re passionate about — or that will set a specific tone or energy level — and build your YouTube backdrop around those pieces.
Any one of these three options can become a “foundation,” something that you plan the rest of your backdrop around. And like any good building, the things on top of it can look different over time, but that foundation helps inform what people should expect from your content.
We’ve talked about “presentation” a lot here, and for good reason. Content creators often have to put themselves in front of the camera, since viewers tend to latch onto the creators rather than their content. That’s especially true in a competitive arena like YouTube. Sure, there are billions of users, but there are also thousands of creators producing similar content.
After putting in the work to start your channel, you have to be even more strategic in order to stand out.
Any advantage you can find can help you attract more viewers, and a good YouTube backdrop might add that little bit of “professionalism” that keeps people coming back to your channel instead of others.