Thumbnails, along with your video title, act as mini-marketing posters for your content on YouTube. You should always create custom poster-frames to be uploaded along with the video title. There are a few general guidelines to follow, but the right poster-frame depends on what your show is about.
Close-Ups of Faces
Visually Compelling Imagery
Well-Framed, Good Composition
Foreground Stands Out From Background
Images That “Compel You To Click”
Accurately Represents the Content
Thumbnails are important for search, related video traffic, and channel page optimization. This visual snapshot of your video is one of the most important optimizations for attracting views on the platform. Tip: make sure to upload high-resolution thumbnails so your thumbnail appears crisp and clear throughout the site.
Most of all, as a rule of thumb, it should should grab people’s attention and at the same time represent what the video is about too.
But the Creators Playbook goes on about it, offering even more tips about video thumbnails — showing the importance they also see in them:
Keep Thumbnail Optimization In Mind When Shooting
Shoot your videos to make the content translate into a great thumbnail.
Proper lighting, framing the shot, and capturing compelling imagery when you shoot will provide you with better material to work with when creating a thumbnail.
Consider taking photographs during your shoots to capture images for thumbnails.
Create A Great Thumbnail
Using images from the video and supplemental images (where relevant/appropriate) to create a custom thumbnail that shows off the best aspects of the video.
Use photo-editing software to resize, modify, or combine images together in the frame.
Apply effects such as adjusting the contrast and brightness of the image to make it stand-out and make the colors brighter.
Preview your thumbnail design at the actual size it will appear on the site to know if the image will still be eye-catching at smaller scales.
Insight Tracking Tip
Track changes in viewership after you optimize your thumbnails. Use the Viewership graph and Discovery Information available in Insight to track any increase in viewership coming from search and/or related video where thumbnails are important for attracting clicks.
So being Youtube the most used platform for video, how do they handle video thumbnails? They give users the choice of three different thumbnails that are automatically taken from the video. Many times, those are enough and will give you at least one good thumbnail to choose from.
Other times though, or if you want ot have more control over it, you can make your own custom video thumbnail:
Quite a few steps, but should be worth it to have control over your thumbnails. Plus, a few video platforms offer an easier way to add custom thumbnails, so it shouldn’t be a problem.
To wrap it up, keep that in mind: the video thumbnail and its choice are very important decisions when uploading your video and displaying it on your site or social networls.