It was March 2020. The world was shutting down, my trips were cancelled for the foreseeable future, and we were going into lockdown. We’d be staying at home just for a few weeks, they said. Faced with that first wave of quarantine boredom, I downloaded TikTok for the first time—and the rest was history.
My sister and I filled much of our time during this period with learning TikTok dances and filming funny videos for our friends and family, and I have to say, it kept us sane. I had so much fun learning the ins and outs of how to use the app, and scrolling the “For You” page provided a much-needed distraction from the real world.
Fast forward nine months, and I’m still the biggest TikTok stan you’ll ever meet. I think it’s entertaining, fun to use, and most importantly, holds so much power. Teens on TikTok have been selling out everything from Aerie leggings to sourdough starters to tie-dye kits for the better part of the last year.
So if you’re looking to dive deeper into the wonderful world of TikTok—either for personal use or as a business tool—this one’s for you. Here are some of the most important hacks and tips to keep in mind while using the app:
1. Save your favorite effects, filters, and sounds when you see them on your FYP
I would have to say that this is my most important tip when it comes to TikTok. There is nothing worse than having a great idea, thinking “OMG, I know the exact sound I want to use for this,” and then not being able to find it again in the depths of the TikTok universe. So when you’re doing your nightly scroll of your “For You” page, save any sounds, effects, or filters that you love and might want to use later.
To do this, simply tap on the sound at the bottom of the screen and then click “Add to Favorites” at the top. The same goes for filters and effects, which will show above a person’s username if they’re using one. You can also use effects and sounds immediately by clicking them and then clicking the record or “Use This Sound” button at the bottom of the screen.
2. Save inspo videos to your favorites
Something that truly changed the game for me in my TikToking experience was my discovery of the favorites feature. If you ever want to refer back to a video (either for inspiration or for things like recipes, etc.), they will be much easier to find in your more curated favorites tab than in your likes. To add a video to your favorites, do a long press on the screen and then click “Add to Favorites.” Much like Instagram’s save feature, you can access it from your main profile page, under your following/followers count.
@flossybabyteachers be like #teacher #teachers♬ original sound – jay
3. Using special features
Special features like green screen, duets, and stitches are king as far as TikTok content goes. Duet and stitch are simple: just click the share button on the right side of the screen of the video you want to react to, and then choose either of those buttons. If they’re not showing up, it is most likely because the creator of the video has those features turned off.
If you’d like to use an effect (the most popular is definitely green screen, seen above), click “effects” on the left side of the record button on the filming screen, and choose whichever one you like by browsing or selecting your favorites (I told you that tip would come in handy). To get to green screen, simply tap the tab labeled “green screen.” There are lots of options here, but the first option is the classic one—and your camera roll will automatically appear for you to choose a photo as your background. This section also has other versions of green screen to try, such as video, sticker, or the eyes and mouth one (I know you’ve seen it).
4. Get yourself a ring light
If there’s one thing I know about the TikTok algorithm, it’s that it favors good lighting. If you’re serious about your TikToking (or just want to make them look better for yourself), it’s time to invest in a ring light. And if you just can’t bring yourself to do that, stick to natural light! Film outside or near a window for best results.
5. Filming on your regular phone camera (vs. in the app) might be your best friend
If you’re filming something like a try-on haul or outfits video, a “what I eat in a day” or any other food video, or really anything that requires a lot of different clips, I personally find it easiest to film on my regular phone camera and then import those clips to TikTok and edit them how I like. TikTok only gives you 60 seconds to work with, so if you’re doing a lot of cuts, you only have a few seconds to get it right. Filming a longer clip and then cutting it down later gives you the freedom of choosing which few seconds you like best to include.
@koristutorials061dc: @evan.stewartt || add me on instagram: koridavisrowe ❤️♬ No hands – …fudge🤬
6. Want to learn a dance? Here’s how…
So you want to venture into the world of TikTok dances? It’s OK, we don’t judge—we’ve all been there. Here’s the best way to do it: find a slowed down tutorial video to learn (you can usually find them by searching the song you’re trying to learn and there are often entire profiles dedicated to them!). These videos break down the dance step-by-step and at a slower speed, so it’s much easier to get a hang of them. Once you’ve got the basics down, try duet-ing someone who is doing the dance so you can see your progress side by side (this is just to see for yourself, not to post anywhere). Then when you master it, move on to filming it solo!
7. Make sure you have the right time selected
When you start filming or editing a video in the app, make sure you select the right time limit at the bottom of the screen. The options are 15 or 60 seconds, and it defaults to 15. Nothing ruins your vibe quite like getting cut off at 15 seconds when you’re not done filming.
@eatpayyloveThis was so good!! Inspo from @cookingwithayeh 🥰 #TortillaTrend #GreenScreenScan #healthyrecipes♬ FEEL THE GROOVE – Queens Road, Fabian Graetz
8. All about audio
I would argue that sometimes the sound is more important than the actual video on TikTok. A few things to note:
Voiceover: Voiceover “day in my life” or recipe videos are always showing up on my FYP, and thankfully, creating one is super easy! All you need to do is finish editing your video the way you like it, and then choose “voiceover” on the top right toolbar of the second editing page.
Using different sounds: If you follow my first tip and already have all of your favorite sounds saved, it’s super easy to find one you like while editing. Tap “sounds” on the bottom left of your editing screen, then tap “favorites” and everything is right there. You can also browse or search for specific sounds in the “recommended” tab.
Lip syncing: This is less of a tip and more of a plea. If you’re lip syncing to someone else’s sound, please practice first so you can get it right! Nothing will doom you on TikTok quite like not matching your mouth movements to a sound. 😉
9. Sound sync video vs. custom editing
If you’re editing something like a montage (of your day, a trip, etc.) with a bunch of random clips that don’t necessarily need to be in a specific order, you might want to consider the sound sync feature. Just upload the clips you want to include, click next, and the default mode will be sound sync. This syncs your clips to a song—and you can choose your own or browse the recommended options. If you’d rather edit your clips yourself, just choose “default” on this screen instead.
10. Adding text
Adding text where you want it is truly one of the hardest parts of TikTok, and I don’t have a ton of secret tips other than practice makes perfect. When you’re doing this, hold down on your text and click “Set Duration,” which will allow you to move it around the screen and choose when you want it to appear and disappear. If you are trying to make different text appear in the same place as the video goes on, it is helpful to place it over the first piece of text first (the first text will show transparently on the screen when you’re editing), and THEN set your duration to where you want it.
@tpwk.carlymy new favorite sound on tik tok #harrystyles #harries #onedirection #foryoupage #fyp #FeelingGood #trending #viral♬ Harry Freaking Styles – EmmA
11. Bonus tip: make a TikTok video into a Live Photo for your lock screen
If the TikTok algorithm is doing you any justice, you should be seeing lots of steamy edits of your favorite celebrities and movie/TV characters (such as the one above 😍). If you’d like to save one to use for a phone lock screen (I can’t be the only one, right?!), just save the video by doing a long press on the screen and choosing “save video” and then you can make it into a Live Photo using the free app “IntoLive.” Thank me later!