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Interview with Lee Zavitz

Tell us about yourself and your channel.

My Name is Lee Zavitz, and I’m a professional DP / Photographer in Toronto, Canada. The first time I picked up my parents’ VHS camcorder in the early 90’s I was hooked. In high school, I got into 35mm film photography and then moved to digital. I’ve always had the bug to create. I worked a few trade jobs after college but always had video/photography as a hobby doing little jobs for friends. Long story short, I quit my 9-5 job and pursued full-time freelance. I’ve been doing it professionally now for the last nine years. My channel is based on my love for photography, filmmaking, and camera gear. I do my best to show everything I can in real-world situations since I still work in the field. I find it hard to call myself a Youtuber because I’m still so involved in the industry.

How did you get started on YouTube?

I’ve always been into computer hardware, camera gear, Lenses, etc. I would talk to my roommate about gear, and he obviously didn’t have the same passion for it. He told me to start my own youtube channel and talk to people that will actually be just as excited about it as I am. So that’s what I did. In 2016 I started a channel to cover the things I’m interested in. It took off from there, and I found people interested in the same things I was! I had no idea that in the future, It was going to consume so much of my life and become what it is today.

What is one piece of advice you’d give to a newbie creator? And what is one piece of advice they should ignore?

I’ve been asked this so many times. You have to jump in with both feet. There’s no way your first few videos will be amazing, so you have to get that out of the way. We all have to start somewhere! Perfecting your craft and honing in your niche is all a part of the journey.

One thing you shouldn’t do is look at other creators and compare yourself to them. They have their own thing, and you have yours. The only competition is yourself. Look at how you can improve your own skills and build off that.

What is your favorite video you have ever made?

I’m not sure I know what my favorite video is. Honestly, I wouldn’t say I like most of the videos I make haha. But I think my favorite video series I’ve made is comparing iPhone portrait mode to a real camera. I hired a model, took the newest iPhone (of that year), and did a portrait shoot with the iPhone side-by-side with a camera. I keep things very vague when it comes to my opinion because I like to see how the viewers react to the images. It’s usually a lot of fun, and these types of videos generate a lot of views.

What are some tools that allow you to be more effective at your craft?

If we are talking about gear, I would say that the Sony a7siii has made things so much easier for shooting Youtube content. Although a very expensive camera for Youtube, it has quickly become my favorite tool to shoot b-roll and behind the scenes for Youtube.

It has high frame rates in 4k, active stabilization as well as post stabilization in Catalyst browse. You don’t need a camera like this, but knowing it has very few limitations opens up more shooting possibilities. Other than that, I like the Rode Wireless Go II. That mic had also saved the day a few times with internal recording abilities when my camera guy wasn’t filming. It’s also a very affordable wireless mic system.

How do you continue to educate yourself in your craft? What are some of your favorite resources for learning?

As someone who has to also teach others I need to make sure I’m always on my A-game. I like to watch other photography Youtube channels and see how they do things and learn from them. But I’m the type of person that likes to learn the hard way and get my hands messy.

I would say trial and error mixed with real-world experience has taught me everything I know.

What has been your biggest tool for subscriber growth?

That is a tough question. I’m not sure I’ve ever used any tools to grow my channel. I honestly don’t care too much about subscriber growth. But I do pay attention to the engagement on a video. Engagement matters more to me because, at the end of the day, only 8% of my subscribers are actually watching my videos anyway.

Do you put much time into making your videos SEO friendly?

I probably sound like the worst Youtuber ever. I don’t do anything really to help SEO. (Maybe I should) I don’t like clickbait titles, and I don’t buy ads to push my videos. I hope the content I make hits its intended audience based on title, description, and tags. The Youtube algorithm is a hard one to understand. It’s ever-evolving, and I don’t have the time to figure it out.

Is there a trend that you are seeing emerge in 2021? What excites you about it?

There are a lot of trends that come and go. It’s hard to predict what will pop off this year. Youtube has tapped into the Tiktok world by starting Youtube shorts. I’m not sure how well this will do because it gets lost in the mix of long-form content. But I will say it’s exciting to watch young creators succeed in new creative ways with these short videos. It’s not how my brain thinks, but the internet is a big place, and there is a huge market for it.

When did your channel start to ‘pay off?’ In other words, when did your channel start to make you money?

I still remember the first $100 I made off Youtube. It took almost a year. I think it was probably when I had just reached around 10,000 subscribers. I was pretty lucky to hit that number in just over a year, to be honest. But the reality is that I dedicated all of my time to hit that milestone. I worked my butt off with many all-nighters to stay consistent. If you were to add up all the time I put in to make $100, I was probably working for less than 2 cents an hour. It might not be common knowledge, but unless you are getting millions of views per day on Youtube, Google AdSense doesn’t really pay that much. Affiliate links and sponsorships are where most content creators make the majority of their monthly income.

Have you created sponsored content? If you have, how did you get in contact with your sponsors?

Yes, I’ve done sponsored content. But I turn down a lot of offers because I don’t feel like it fits my brand, and I know it would just be annoying to my audience. I have never reached out to sponsors; they have all contacted me first. The type of sponsored content I do is generally based around a company I like or something I would use myself. But the main type of sponsorships I’ve done just cover the costs of content I wanted to shoot with their product. I will not do a direct review of a product for compensation because I don’t feel like that is fair to the viewer. It doesn’t seem like a genuine review if you were monetarily compensated to say nice things about a product.

Anything else you’d like to share?

If you are planning on starting a youtube channel this year, keep in mind it will be one of the hardest, most rewarding things you have ever done. DON’T do it for the money because it won’t happen early on, but in time that will come. Think of it as a long-term investment in yourself. All I can say is get out there and create some awesome content and see what happens!