By ALANA GRELYAK, Manager of Marketing & Community Relations, Tree House Humane Society, Chicago, IL

Making a video doesn’t have to be a hugely time consuming process, but it can seem daunting for those who have never done it. Videos are highly effective for helping pets get adopted, and they can also be very useful for informing and educating your supporters, as well as entertaining and finding new ones.

Let’s consider a few facts and myths about video production.

1) I need a crew.

This is a myth! Yes, it helps to have a crew, but a majority of the videos I have helped create for The CATastrophes Web Series were done with two to three people total, and all of the ones I’ve done thus far for Tree House have been done with just one (plus a willing actor/assistant and a few cats).

2) I need a fancy camera.

Also a myth! You can get by with a decent smart phone. If you want to get fancy, invest $50 in some clip-on lenses for your phone. It’ll add a little variety if you want to edit things together and have some choices.

3) I need great lighting.

This one is true! Lighting is everything in the world of photography and video. Does this mean you need a bundle of hot lights, key lights, fill lights, and fancy strobes? Nope. Mostly, you just need the sun. If you have access to a window, allow the light to fall directly on your subject. Don’t backlight your subject by having it between you and the window. No windows? Invest about $25 in a portable, battery-powered LED like this one. You can take it everywhere you go, including into cages, and it should come with some filters to soften the light. Don’t have a filter? Wrap it in a white napkin to diffuse the light and make it more comfortable for your furry subjects.

4) Editing software is expensive!

Neither myth nor fact, but somewhere in between. Do you have an Adobe subscription for your shelter? Then you should have access to Premiere Pro. If that’s too daunting, the subscription also comes with Premiere Rush, which you can use from your desktop or cell phone and upload directly to your social media accounts. It’s basically drag and drop and takes about 30 minutes to learn to use. Do you want something fancy but don’t have a budget? Check out DaVinci Resolve. It’s completely free and offers a number of pro editing features. Do you want basic and free? iMovie will do, if you have a Mac.

5) Music costs money.

Myth. As a musician, I hate to say it, but music is getting cheaper by the day. If you have a YouTube account, you can download any of the tracks from their Creator Studio for free to use with your creative projects. You can also invest in a subscription to something like Envato Elements and access their library of music files. Will it be written specifically for your project? No, but the days of hearing the same track from iMovie over and over are definitely over.

6) Sound doesn’t matter.

Myth! Sound absolutely counts, especially if you’re interviewing someone or giving details about your animal. You can get a lavalier mic like this one that plugs right into an iPhone for about $13.

Perfectionists out there are going to want something that looks great, but in today’s environment, it’s more about content and frequency than it is about slick production values. Here are a few examples of my work for Tree House and some details on how long they took. You’ll notice that some of the edit times are “a few hours.” That included me looking up some effects and getting used to a new software. Future edits will go much faster.

Finally, focus on the story. If you have a great story to tell, your work is half done.

FTC Disclosure: None of the links you see here are paid, nor are any of the companies/products mentioned sponsoring this post. These are honest links to things the author has used and liked or are listed as an example. No recommendations to any of these are being made.

Author Bio: 

Alana Grelyak is the Manager of Marketing & Community Relations for Tree House Humane Society. Prior to that, she was the co-creator of the CATastrophes Web Series on YouTube, which has over 122,000 subscribers and has won numerous awards including first place in the 2014 CatVidFest and a YouTube Silver Play button. Her award-winning humor blog dedicated to special needs pets can be found at She is a council member of the Cat Writer’s Association and lives with her five cats, dog, and very patient boyfriend in Chicago.