YouTube stars The Michalaks share their secrets of vlogging success

Stefan Michalak setting up to film a vlog in a park.
Stefan Michalak preparing to film a vlog in the park on his Canon EOS R with a Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM prime lens. © The Michalaks

Not so long ago, creating a weekly documentary show required film crews, editors and producers, and possibly even broadcast facilities. But star vloggers Stefan and Hannah Michalak produce their hit YouTube videos themselves, using vlogging cameras, shooting and editing know-how gained over time, and a thorough understanding of their viewers.

Their channel, The Michalaks, has more than 270,000 subscribers, with their most popular video clocking up more than 3 million views. In the crowded world of vlogging, what's the secret of their success? What vlogging cameras and lenses do the Michalaks use? How do they film and edit their episodes?

Canon Professional Services

Do you own Canon kit?

Register your kit to access free expert advice, equipment servicing, inspirational events and exclusive special offers with Canon Professional Services

When they started out, they'd leave the house with little more than a pocket camera and then cut together the random clips they filmed each week; but what they do now, they say, could not be more different. "We often take up to eight cameras, tripods and a drone out with us and, unlike before, we now also script, write and research before we start the production. The mission is to create something that rivals film or TV in terms of production value."

Production value is key, then, but Stef emphasises that this does not mean being flashy. "Some people tend to think you need to have all these cinematic shots and beautiful montages, but that's where a lot of people hide who don't have the ideas," he says. "Viewers are getting bored with that now, and they want to see truth and honesty."

Accordingly, The Michalaks deals with everything from moving house to DIY, their wedding and having a baby – even the occasional argument.

"The only way you can really do this job is if you completely submit to it," Stef insists. "You can't hold anything back, because everyone craves truth. And they can see truth in nuance – in moments that you just capture, not orchestrate."

Stefan Michalak filming with his wife, son and dog in the park.
Stef has been vlogging full-time for six years and for him the formula is simple: "For the most part, the camera's there, you press the button and you just capture something authentic." © The Michalaks
Stefan setting up his Canon EOS R to film his wife, Hannah.
Stef photographing his wife Hannah. The whole family take part in the vlogs, offering an honest insight into their lives. © The Michalaks

Stef's passion for filmmaking started at the age of 17 when he got his first camcorder and began filming his own sketch videos with his best friend. He went on to a job interviewing celebrities for a digital magazine, then noticed the growth of vlogging.

"I thought I'd take everything I'd learned and migrate across," he says, but it wasn't so easy. "It was an uphill struggle and financially very difficult – we were haemorrhaging money for about two years and were close to giving up. Then our first brand deal came in, and it snowballed from there."

Javier Cortés holds a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV to film a fashion video.

Adding video skills to your toolbox

Fashion photographer Javier Cortés shoots video for clients all over the world, debunking the myth that you can't do both.

Hard work, great vlogging kit

After six years of vlogging full-time, Stef has learned what it takes. "You have to put in hard work and dedication," he says. "There's lots of things I wouldn't film. But I leave in petty bickers with Hannah because they're funny. For the most part, the camera's there, you press the button and you just capture something authentic. Once you bring that to life with grading and music, you can really pull the audience in emotionally, which is a powerful thing to do."

The Michalaks uses a greater variety of creative shots than a typical vlog. "One week it might all be candid shots. Often we'll be talking to each other and not even address the camera. That very much breaks the mould," he says. "Sometimes we make a three-minute film, but usually they last 20-30 minutes, which seems to be the golden number for YouTube."

Canon PowerShot G7 X Mark II

You don't need a pro camera to shoot winning video, Stef says, but he does recommend a camera with a flip-out screen, "like a Canon PowerShot G7 X Mark II [now succeeded by the Canon PowerShot G7 Mark III]". For the Michalaks' videos, candid footage, usually shot by Hannah on the Canon PowerShot G7 X Mark II, is mixed with more planned content, which often requires multiple cameras.

Canon EOS 5D Mark IV and Canon EOS R

"I've got two Canon EOS 5D Mark IVs and one Canon EOS R," Stef explains. "For some scenes, I'll have all three cameras set up in a room to get the shots I want.

"The EOS R has revolutionised my workflow," he adds. "The flip-out vari-angle screen is the best thing ever, because it allows me to monitor the footage as well as being in front of the camera. My composition has improved a lot and editing has become easier, because I'm now able to monitor what I'm shooting."

The compact size of the unobtrusive EOS R has also proved to be an advantage. "I've been out with a Canon EOS C200 cine camera and had people coming up to me constantly asking if I had a permit or permission to film. With DSLRs and the Canon EOS R, I'm left alone. And I get quality results. That's why I've been very reluctant to migrate to anything bigger."

Canon EOS M50

Reiterating the point that you don't necessarily need cinematic kit to get into vlogging, Stef reveals that their "little go-to workhorse" is the Canon EOS M50. "It's so simple to use: turn it on, set it to movie mode, maybe spend a couple of seconds making adjustments in the menus, and that's it, you're ready to go," he says, adding that the lightweight mirrorless camera gives them "authentic-feeling videos."

Despite being a more budget-friendly option, the EOS M50 offers features such as face-tracking AF and 4K video shooting that help the Michalaks deliver high quality footage.

 Stefan Michalak filming a toddler in the park.
"The only way you can really do this job is if you completely submit to it," Stef insists. "You can't hold anything back, because everyone craves truth." © The Michalaks
Stefan Michalak holding his kit up to film the trees in the park.
Stef is truly dedicated to getting the shot he wants. "We often take up to eight cameras, tripods and a drone out with us. The mission is to create something that rivals film or TV in terms of production value." © The Michalaks

Favourite vlogging lenses

Best of all, Stef says, he uses the Drop-In Filter Mount Adapter EF-EOS R, which enables him to attach his EF lenses on the EOS R body and also an ND filter to give the characteristic shallow depth of field that he loves.

Stef now favours the Canon EF 24mm f/1.4L II USM and Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS II USM lenses – and because he can use the same lenses on all his cameras, there is no difference in colours between the footage from the EOS R and EOS 5D Mark IV, saving time in post-processing. The fact that the two camera models use the same battery and have the same familiar EOS controls also means he can switch seamlessly between them.

Techniques and tips

Although the EOS R, EOS 5D Mark IV and EOS M50 can all shoot in 4K, Stef prefers to record in 1080p HD, which produces smaller files than 4K, so he doesn't have to carry around lots of memory cards or an external recorder, which would compromise portability. For maximum highlight and shadow detail, he records in Canon Log almost all the time.

"I would like to spend a lot more time on my grading," he adds, "but it's one of those things that takes time. I have to try to be time-efficient and make that process as fast as I can – and the colours look amazing anyway. I like to use natural light as much as possible for a natural look. We'll very seldom use lights. I just prefer to try to manipulate natural light as much as I can, and that's where Canon Log really helps."

The Michalaks filming on a path in the park with their dog.
Stef advises those new to vlogging to choose a camera with a flip-up screen so they can see themselves and get comfortable talking to the camera. © The Michalaks
Stefan setting up his camera along a fence with his son.
The Michalaks vlogs have high production values and a variety of shots from different angles. © The Michalaks

Another key technology Stef relies on is Dual Pixel CMOS Autofocus, available on the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV, the EOS R and the EOS M50. "Purists say you should always focus manually," he says, "but the technology is so good, I would never go manual any more. And with eye tracking, it's even better. I'm spoilt by Canon autofocus – it's fantastic, especially when you're in front of the camera, with a flip-out screen. I haven't got time to be messing around with the focus."

Stef is also a fan of slow motion, which he shoots at up to 100fps in 720p and then upscales for Full HD. "When things are happening rapidly, I generally switch over to it," he says.

As one of Britain's most successful vloggers, does Stef have any advice for budding filmmakers? "You need to establish what are you trying to do, then treat it like an art form," he says.

"Make sure to get the audio right," he adds. "I carry around a Zoom H6 portable recorder and use lapel mics."

Stef concludes that while honing your shooting and editing skills will help, the crucial ingredient in vlogging success is of course producing content of substance. "Get comfortable talking to the camera," he advises. "Most importantly, convey truth and honesty."

For more vlogging tips, watch Richard Walch's Canon Connected video.

Autor článku Adam Duckworth

Stefan Michalak's kitbag

The key kit pros use to film their vlogs

Canon cameras and lenses including a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV, Canon EOS R, and Canon PowerShot G7 X Mark II.


Canon EOS M50

Step into the future with the innovative technology in this cool, compact and connected mirrorless camera. "This is the perfect camera if you want to start vlogging," says Stef.

Canon EOS R

A pioneering full-frame mirrorless camera that sets new standards for photographers and filmmakers. "It has revolutionised my workflow," says Stef. "The flip-up vari-angle screen is the best thing ever, because I can monitor as I'm filming myself."

Canon PowerShot G7 X Mark II

With a 1.0 type sensor, bright f/1.8-2.8 Canon lens and superior DIGIC 7 processing, this pocket-sized, large sensor compact offers DSLR-like creativity in both stills and Full HD movies.



Drop-In Filter Mount Adapter EF-EOS R

The EOS R System adapters offer full compatibility with Canon EF and EF-S lenses. The Drop-In Filter Mount Adapter adds the ability to use drop-in filters, removing the need to fit filters on the front of a lens, especially useful for wide-angles with a large front lens element.

Related articles

View All

Get the newsletter

Click here to get inspiring stories and exciting news from Canon Europe Pro

Sign up now