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Appearing on Camera in Your Videos: Tips for Success

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The #1 reason why people DON’T make their own videos to promote themselves on the web is because they are uncomfortable putting themselves in camera.

I know the feeling!  During my long career in TV production, I was NOT an on-camera person.  I was a behind-the-scenes gal all the way.  So when it comes to putting myself on-camera, I started my online business with no more experience than the rest of you.  Trust me when I say that the thought of being on-camera makes me want to reach for the barf bag!

First tip is to say say that doing a voice-over instead of a full on-camera appearance makes it MUCH less intimidating, so try that.    You don’t  have to worry about your hair!  🙂

My second tip is to work on getting over whatever is holding you back.  This post gives several suggestions for doing just that!

PRACTICE MAKES ALL THE DIFFERENCE!

Start by practicing without even having a camera present.  No lights either!  This will help you just get used to the sound and feel of your own voice “announcing” and speaking out loud.  Speaking in this manner feels MUCH different than ordinary conversation and it’s perfectly natural for it to take some getting used to.

Don’t worry about what you say; just grab whatever is handy.  Read a magazine article or something like that.   Or, you can babble about your favorite past time or your favorite food.  Do this without anyone else even being in the room.  Now, what’s there to worry about?  No one will laugh at you because no one is there!  If you goof, who cares?

By eliminating all the common stressors of being on camera, (the actual camera, lights, mic and crowds) you give yourself a chance to become comfortable with everything that comes with the act of being on-camera.

Once you are comfortable doing that, it won’t be as bad once the camera and lights are actually staring you in the face!  Some people think this is a silly step and a waste of time but I assure you it’s NOT.  Most people are amazed at how nervous they feel when they first start practicing this way.  It seems silly because there’s no logical reason to be nervous when you’re just talking randomly to an empty room.  Well, whoever said nervousness had anything to do with LOGIC?

This is my inconsequential video with the subject being to describe my favorite books.  Honestly, I think it is boring and doubt if too many people would bother to watch because after all, it does not hurt my feelings to admit that no one really cares what books I like but that is not the point of the video.   This video was for me.  I did it to practice and become more comfortable.  The video accomplishes this goal.

PRACTICE WITH AN ACTUAL CAMERA BY DOING VIDEOS THAT ARE INCONSEQUENTIAL

The next step toward feeling comfortable on-camera is to practice making videos that  no one will ever see.  Inconsequential videos I call them.  No one will see these unless you want them to.  It does not matter if you goof.  What do you talk about?  Anything.  Read any article or book that is handy.  Or, talk about yourself.  Describe your favorite book.  Your favorite movie.  Favorite meal.  Describe important incidents in your life.  Pontificate on politics or any subject that interests you.  It does not matter what you say.  What matters is that you are in front of a camera, with lights on, making an actual video.  You are becoming comfortable just BEING there.

MAKE “BRAGGING” VIDEOS

One of the reasons why people feel so uncomfortable being on-camera (or with public speaking) is because we’re often taught all our lives that it’s rude and immature to try and be the center  of attention.   (In general, it IS but carrying that logic to being on-camera is taking it too far.)  Many of us are also told that it’s arrogant to think anyone cares two hoots what we have to say.  “Quit bragging, who the heck do you think you are!  Sit down and shut-up!”

The antidote for all of that is to realize that it is not even remotely arrogant to promote yourself or business.  Granted, it pays to promote yourself in a humble way so to speak, but promoting yourself is actually critical in this day and age.  If you don’t promote yourself, who will?  Anyone going on a job interview better be comfortable promoting themselves or they’ll never get the job!

Making online videos is largely about promoting ourselves and our businesses.  So if  you are harboring fears about coming across as arrogant, attention-seeking or self-agrandizing,  it’s probably a fairly deep seated fear.  Best way to get over it is to allow yourself to brag!

Make some inconsequential videos where you are  bragging so much your mommy would faint.  (Just don’t invite  mom to the taping.)  Brag that you are the best darn YOU that ever walked the face of the earth.  You’ve got great legs, great taste in clothes, great breath.  You’re a great cook, housekeeper or driver.   Whatever.  Honestly, you don’t have to even pick something that you’re really that darn good at!  Say you are anyway!  Remember this is an inconsequential video no one will see.  The point is to just get used to bragging.  Then, when it comes time to make a video where you promote your business by claiming to be the best accountant in town, you won’t feel so self-conscious.

BUT I’M AFRAID OF LOOKING UGLY AND SOUNDING STUPID!

This is a fairly universal fear.  Having put thousands and thousands of regular Joes and Janes on TV, I’ve heard it a million times.  I’ve felt it myself.   We are our own worst critics.  Chances are high that you look and sound just fine.  Besides, gorgeous people are often intimidating to others!

boy_-_happy_3Your “ugliness” just might make the audience feel more comfortable and that’s a GOOD thing!   I know mine does!  LOL!  Seriously.  I had a guy write to me and confess that he had avoided doing videos because he did not want to look OLD and FAT.  Then he saw my videos and said to himself, “Well, she’s not putting off doing videos because she’s old and fat so I won’t either!” I laughed and laughed! So glad to know that I was easing the neurotic insecurities of others!  Now don’t worry, he was very polite about it so I was 100& OK with it.

VIDEO TECHNIQUES TO LOOK YOUR BEST

There’s no doubt in my mind that the more simple the video production set-up, the more comfortable the person on-camera will be. Smaller cameras, less lights, a microphone pinned on instead of being held, all these factors help.  This means tiny web cams that get by with just room light will be an easier situation to face than a 30-pound professional camera using 3,000 watts of light.

Good lighting makes a WORLD of difference.  For faces, bright, diffused light is best.  (Click this link for several tutorials on lighting techniques for video.)

Also, pull the camera back a bit and DON’T do a super close-up.  Most of us look prettier from a slight distance.   Stand behind a chair or otherwise crop your body out if you feel fat.

Grooming is more important that actual looks.   Wear something nice.  Do your hair up nice.  Ladies, wear about 20% more make-up than normal.  Guys on TV wear make-up too, usually just foundation to help even out skin tones.  Lots of men will  not want to do that and IMHO, that’s OK.  The weird feeling many men would feel from wearing make-up would do more harm than having uneven skin tones!  It is up to you, the producer.

In summary, going on camera is important enough to put effort into.  The steps outlined here will help tremendously.  Most newbies feel inadequate if they can’t get in front of the camera and do a perfect take first time out.  I’m here to tell you that you that’s unrealistic.    Virtually NO ONE does well without practice.  Practice does indeed make perfect!  Well, OK, not perfect but good enough!

Thanks for reading Video Production Tips!

Lorraine Grula

Internet Video Gal

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Lorraine Grula


Lorraine Grula enjoyed a fast-paced, multifaceted career in the television and video business, producing, shooting, writing, and editing documentary-style videos in both news and corporate settings. Later, she got to teach media and video production in two high schools, which then morphed into instructional design and corporate training. Lorraine is now dedicated to sharing her vast knowledge with others who wish to learn the art of video making, with an emphasis on storytelling and creating professional-quality videos for the internet as simply, yet creatively as possible.

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  1. What a brave 10 year old girl, tell her I said hello and I am very proud of her. Great story! Thanks, Rosy

  2. Hi Lorraine, Your story shows that negatives can be turned to positives with determination and perserverance. I’ve been reading your blog and watching your videos everyday for 2 weeks or so, and I learn something new everyday. I really enjoy your relaxed and playful style. Thank you for your mentorship.

  3. Hi James.
    Thanks a million, seriously. I really appreciate what you say. I questioned the wisdom of posting that little story but I guess it is OK! Think I need to go floss! 🙂
    And of course, it always delights me to hear that people enjoy my blog! I LOVE teaching people how to make videos so it is great to have folks such as yourself who wish to learn! Otherwise, you know, there just wouldn’t be any point! LOL! So you are very, very welcome my friend!
    Take care and good luck with all your video projects!
    Lorraine

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