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Want To Be A Vlogger? Start With A Story

Sara Dietschy is something of a YouTube phenom. Not even in her mid 20s, the vlogger has made a name for herself with vlogs, and YouTube series that have both style and substance in abundance. After fits and starts beginning in her teens, Dietschy has found her stride and then some. Producing a vlog five times a week as well as travel films, documentaries, That Creative Life and Creative Spaces series, she’s blazing a trail into the new and ever-changing frontier of The Internet…and together with her 177,000 subscribers, we’re all invited to go along for the ride.

Alpha Universe: How long have you been vlogging?

Sara Dietschy: I started about three or four years ago. I haven't been doing it consistently for that long, but that’s when I started. For the last 2 years, I've been vlogging consistently.

In the very beginning, it started with travel. I was in college and I really enjoyed traveling. So I'd go to places like Iceland and Greece and I just started pointing the camera at things and putting videos together. I was finding that I liked putting my own perspective on a place. That comes from something that my grandfather always told me, ‘Stop taking pictures of scenery. You can buy that on a postcard."

My vlogging made it more personal. It was a way that I could add more of my personality and some style into my travels. And it just became fun. It was cool to go back and watch my experiences with friends and where we were. A couple of years ago, I went to Iceland and I did a few travel vlogs there. That's really when I fell into my style and it was the first time I really thought ‘vlogging is fun and I'm going to do this more’.

Sara Dietschy's Vlog from her recent trip to Cuba

Alpha Universe: How would you define your style?

Sara Dietschy: I think it evolved from all the travel recap videos I would do. I love music so I always edit very closely to music and I kind of have a ‘glitchy’ editing style. I love adding some music and I use a lot of slow-mo. I try to make my videos look like very aesthetic so I spend a lot of time color grading. I think my style is just a good blend between personality and roping in the audience and making it relatable and also making something pretty and something I'm proud of.

Alpha Universe: You’re doing a lot more than just travel vlogs now. How often do you post to YouTube?

Sara Dietschy: I’m posting about 5 times a week now.

Alpha Universe: Do you shoot everything in 4K?

Sara Dietschy: I don't. I’ll shoot the bigger videos like the big travel videos in 4K. Videos in places like Cuba trip I just went on. I shoot those in 4K so I have options down the road. Since I pump out vlogs so much, I don't have time to keep up with shooting and editing everything in 4K. I'm editing on a 2012 MacBook Pro. But for the big stuff, I like to know that I have it in 4K.

Alpha Universe: What’s your primary shooting setup?

Sara Dietschy: For the majority of the vlogs, it's mainly the Sony RX100. I use the RX100 III and RX100 V. The RX100 is definitely my everyday workhorse. It goes through a lot.

Occasionally I do whip out the Sony α7S II and then if I'm feeling crazy the Sony α7R II as well. Those are more for my documentary stuff and if I'm shooting something that's maybe a little bit more than a vlog.

I mentioned that I do a lot of color grading. That's something that really attracted me to the Sony cameras. They have that flat profile to work with so it makes it even easier to achieve the look I want because I start with that flatter profile.

And sometimes I use my iPhone. I've been having issues with mice in my apartment recently and so if something very exciting and mice-related is happening, but I don't have my camera right next to me. I'll just pull out the iPhone in case I get attacked by a mouse.

Sara Dietschy's vlogging gear video. Part of her How To Vlog series.

Alpha Universe: What do you think makes for a good vlog?

Sara Dietschy: Most importantly, you have to have a story. I think it's challenging doing a vlog because it forces you to maybe do something that you wouldn't otherwise. You have to get something that’s actually engaging to your audience. So it probably makes me go outside more than I normally would if I wasn't vlogging, but at the same time, it's important just stay true to yourself. I know that sounds kind of cheesy to say “be true to yourself” but it’s really important especially when it comes to vlogging. People sniff out phoniness very easily.

For one of my normal vlogs, me in New York City, I think it's always fun to just show day to day living because when I'm out traveling, I'm always going and showing super exciting things. But some of the most fun things that I can show in just a normal vlog in New York is just running around with my friends in the city or staying in all day and editing and just doing goofy things.

I've Been Waiting For This Moment by Sara Dietschy

But it's not just about showing your day. I try to vlog about things I’m passionate about and I'm going to show you these things throughout the day I'm living. I think where people get tripped up with vlogs is they're just like ‘oh, other people are doing it, so I'm gonna show what I had for breakfast and then what I had for lunch and then, okay, I met up with these people…” It just feels like a formula that they’re doing because someone else does well with that formula.

So I think it’s important to have a concept of story with every vlog. Also, not every vlog is going to be perfect, especially if you are posting a lot. But to really keep things going, it’s got to be more than just showing your day. It’s about sharing a compelling story.

Alpha Universe: Your travel videos and travel vlogs are a little different from your regular vlogs. What makes for a good travel vlog?

Sara Dietschy: The thing that I always follow is just leave them wanting more. I think the goal of making a travel film or vlog is you want to provoke that sense of FOMO, the Fear Of Missing Out. So something I do is make it fun, even if the situation isn't that fun. Especially when I'm working with a brand or something like that, the goal is to make it look like you're having the best time of your life, think about what you can do to make it fun. I think it's just, again, finding a story and telling it in a compelling way. You don't want people clicking out of your stuff. You want to leave them thinking, ‘Wow, that was fun. I want to go there’ or, ‘I want to see more.’ It needs to be more enticing because it is. Travel is all about that wanderlust feeling and evoking that in your audience.

Alpha Universe: Looking at your YouTube channel, you get the sense that you're a very optimistic and positive person. It really comes out in your vlogs. Have you always been like that?

Sara Dietschy: It probably comes from my mom. I’m so excited about life. I’m only 22 so it’s not like I have ages of wisdom, but I think life is just about trying things, figuring out if you like it or not, and then just adjusting. I've just found that being negative and dwelling on things has literally no upside and that’s working out well for me so far.

How to deal with hate online.

I try to be as transparent as possible because that's how to be relatable. That's how you develop that relationship with your audience, but, at the same time, having that optimistic and positive vibe to your stuff, I just think it's so much more productive because that just transcends everything. I think when people come to my channel, they want a little slice of that. They want to smile for 10 minutes or they want to be inspired or they want to be informed. I feel like that's my role on the Internet.

Negativity can get you clicks and some people do very well with it, but that’s not me. I also don't think I'm in the position to voice all of my political opinions and to change the world that way. There are people who do that eloquently and I'm going to let them keep doing that. I think I have the gift of highlighting other creative people and just showing my creative process and along the way and inspiring my audience in their own creative lives.

Alpha Universe: You’re obviously doing something right because you have over 177,000 subscribers on YouTube. How did you get there? Was it steady growth or was there a tipping point?

Sara Dietschy: It was a combination of a lot of things, but there was one specific event that really helped. From zero to 4,000 subscribers, that was about 2011 to February 2016. That was a lot of camera reviews, concerts, leveraging other people's audiences and things like that. It was a slow process.

When I got to around 4,000 subscribers, I made a video called How To Casey Neistat a Vlog. So I basically made a parody of the ginormous vlogger, Casey Neistat and at the end of my video, said to my followers, "Yo, tweet Casey Neistat. He needs to see this video." He ended up seeing the video. He spent the next day on his vlog shouting out my channel and video for like half of his vlog. Basically, "This video that Sara Dietschy made was funny, but check out her channel. It's everything that’s right with YouTube." That was only a little over a year ago and I wasn't even really vlog-focused then. I had a documentary creative series, an interview series, travel films, camera reviews, and tutorials. From that point, I basically went from 4,000 subscribers to 100,000 subscribers over the span of a month. That doesn’t happen, especially in the YouTube space of today. That was definitely my turning point and ever since then I just haven't looked back.

Alpha Universe: For someone who wants to be you…to be a successful vlogger. For someone who really has something to say, but is starting from zero, what advice would you give them?

Sara Dietschy: I think one of the best things you can do, is to learn editing and learn to love it. I truly think that it is an edge and why I have the stamina to go the distance. I’m actually passionate about making videos, about filming and making videos, and then I'm also passionate about talking about all the different creative fields. A lot of people can be great vloggers. Maybe they're passionate about cooking, maybe they're passionate about race cars, about sports, but they're not necessarily filmmakers. And being a filmmaker, being able to channel that passion to the screen, is essential.

Sara Dietschy's How To Edit video. Part of the How To Vlog.

So definitely watch all the tutorials on YouTube. Find a way that you can get excited about the filming and editing process. It's something that can be frustrating, but you have to be able to push through those points where you want to give up. And it does get better. You do get better the more you do it. It's just like with anything. The more you practice, the better you become. There's a lot of great tools out there to help you along the way. Just find a way to make it fun, because it is fun. If you're doing something and making videos about what you truly love, it’s going to be fun. As you start to learn the tools, you find that editing is where it all comes together. It’s where you take the pieces and create your story.

And the tools are so accessible now. If you have a Mac, you have iMovie and you can just go for it. Find what's unique to you and what gets you very excited because that's going to enable you to go the distance.

Sara Dietschy is part of the Sony Alpha Imaging Collective. Subscribe to her channel on YouTube and follow her on Instagram @saradietschy