How Do I Change My Video Thumbnail on YouTube?

mentos.jpgAs far as I can tell, it’s impossible to change your thumbnail on YouTube. Thumbnails, which are the single image that appears to represent your video, are critical to a viewer’s decision to watch your video.

Thumbnails, followed by a video’s duration and title, are the most important elements to catching the attention of random video surfers.

Yet many online video sites seem to randomly select a thumbnail from your footage. As exceptions, Revver lets you select one of 9, and Eefoof lets you upload one of your own (which is risky since people could pull a “bait and switch”).

I got totally lucky with the thumbnail appearing above (Mentos Jet Packs), and I’m sure that contributed to the 20K views the video got versus many of the others in the Mentos Geyser contest. The judges featured this thumbnail (but innactive so you couldn’t click it) on the contest page for the first week or so of the contest.

That’s when I realized it was time to figure YouTube thumbnails out. So here’s the poop. YouTube draws its thumbnail from the center frame of your video. So you want to make sure the center frame is representative and simple. Simplicity is critical because of its size. Also- try not to give away a gag in the thumbnail. If your video has an element of surprise, you don’t want the thumbnail to kill the moment.

This is easier said than done. I spent way to much time trying to ensure that the thumbnail for “Mad Turkey” was the shot of me in the turkey suit pressed against the outside window as my daughter and neice screamed in surprise. And because there’s too much detail and it’s dark, it still doesn’t look to great when the thumbnail is smaller then a square inch.

The trick is tightening/removing clips from the beginning and end, then take the total duration and divide by two. Lots of trial and error. Send me your results!

6 Replies to “How Do I Change My Video Thumbnail on YouTube?”

  1. I use Final Cut Express to edit my videos. That has an option when you are saving your project to select a “poster frame” – a single frame of your video that becomes the icon/thumbnail for the video. YouTube uses the poster frame when I upload – I think.

  2. It’s interesting how people figure out solutions for issues like this with Google as a hobby but I have yet to hear of anyone doing so for YouTube. I’ve seen so many crack, hacks, and tweaks for Google, I get lost. But YouTube doesn’t seem to get much traffic with this leet crowd.

    Could this be an under-exploited area?

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