Photographer and filmmaker Jeremy Cohen’s TikTok videos have attracted over 1.3 million followers to his account. The NYC-based Alpha Collective member posts his unique experiences photographing different events and other impromptu happenings throughout the Big Apple. “Everyone has their own unique voice,” he says. “I think it’s important to tell stories that are different and unique and that people want to hear. So I just stay true to myself and people follow along.” We connected with Cohen to learn more about being a TikTok creator and why he thinks other creatives should be taking advantage of the platform. Keep reading for his top 5 tips if you want to start creating videos for TikTok.
With over 1.3 million followers, Alpha Collective member Jeremy Cohen knows a thing or two about making TikTok content. See his top tips for success.
1. Don’t be afraid to be spontaneous.
When Cohen creates his TikTok videos, sometimes he has a plan and uses his go-to minimal gear of the Sony Alpha 1 and his Sony 35mm f/1.4 G Master or Sony 85mm f/1.4 G Master. Other times he’s just ready to hit record with his phone when something happens. He thinks TikTok is the perfect place to fire out that content that isn’t perfectly polished. “Sometimes I plan them out but many times when something happens I'm just ready to record it and make a story out of it,” he explains. “I think one of the beauties of TikTok and how I look at it anyway, is that it’s not a totally polished portfolio like Instagram.”
He continues, “On Instagram, I want to try to post my best work and not just post whatever I’m working on. I’m posting finished work there that’s polished and that I’ve put a lot of work into. I’ll post that kind of stuff to TikTok too, but I can also post that stuff that isn’t as polished. It’s just what’s more native to the app whether it’s an actual photography video or if I’m just talking about a certain thing related to photography.”
2. Remember you can use voice-overs.
Sometimes the most difficult part of recording a TikTok, especially a spontaneous one, is knowing what to say in the moment. Cohen often likes to use voice-overs for his TikTok videos so he can focus on getting the footage he needs in the moment and not on the dialogue. “I'm not as much of a vlog guy where I could just record myself and talk about whatever,” he says. “I do that sometimes, but I found that I prefer to use voice-overs. I've never done voice-overs until TikTok, but it's as simple as whenever I'm somewhere and recording video, I don't have to think of what I want to say about it right then and there. I can just record everything, take the photos, and then when I get back to editing, that's when I could put the story together and I write up a little script or my words. It's usually just short and sweet.”
“Because I would worry so much about that in the past. If I didn’t get a shot at the right time I was saying a certain thing then the whole video would be screwed. I just don’t want to stress about that. Now I just focus on the photography or just capturing the moment on video or in a photo there, and then when I get back I’ll be able to fill in the blanks in the story with a voice-over."
3. It’s OK to keep it simple.
As you scroll through TikTok videos you’ll see a wide range of videos – some with fancy transitions and storylines that look like they took months to create. Cohen says not to worry about overcomplicating your videos when you first get on the app. “There are so many features and different things you can do it’s easy to get overwhelmed by that,” he says, “but you don’t have to use TikTok in some of the ways that you see other people use it. You can create something very simple."
“Even though I have this background of knowing how to edit high-quality videos,” he explains, “on TikTok, it’s OK to have your posts be very simple videos. You don’t have to use any special effects. You just cut it, or it doesn’t even have to be cut at all. It could literally just be a video shot in the app. It’s all about the story you’re telling so if the story is interesting, then people will watch it.”
4. Follow other creatives who inspire you.
Cohen also notes how important it is for you to follow other creatives who inspire you on TikTok. It’s a great way to fill your feed with their work and to keep up with what they’re doing. It can also help inspire you with your own videos. “My feed and ‘For You’ Page shows me a lot of photography videos which is really cool. I feel like not only am I connecting with other photographers from around the world, but I'm learning a lot about photography from photo history. I follow some people now that break down in a mini TikTok, the history of this photographer. It's like learning a little mini lesson.”
He continues, “It's really cool, you can learn about camera gear coming out, or people's projects. It's a really fun way to be involved and learn about photography and be involved in the photo community. It's a lot of work, but the best route is to just follow people that inspire you to create what feels true to yourself, because everyone has a unique voice and vision. When finding your voice as an artist or as a photographer, it doesn't have to be what the photographer next to you is doing. You just have to stay true to what works for you.”
5. It’s not too late, you just have to do it.
Sure, TikTok has been around for a bit now and you may feel like you’ve missed the boat – but Cohen says that’s not the case. “It’s an amazing app and can seem a little daunting to get on at first,” he says. “If you’re not already on Tiktok, you might feel like you’re too late and there’s no point in signing up now. But you’re not. I think it’s a great educational tool and it also serves me a lot of inspiration. I would say try it out. You have nothing really to lose except you’re spending some time on it."
“Another reason to get on the app is just because of the algorithm compared to any other app. You could have zero followers but if you post something interesting, it could go viral. It’s not as possible to do that on other platforms.”
Follow Jeremy Cohen on TikTok @jeremycohen for more of his videos.