August 17, 2015

How to Shoot Awesome Videos for Your Business

How to Shoot Awesome Videos for Your Business

In the world of content marketing, video is the new black. And these days, you hardly need to spend a fortune to produce it yourself. Even if you're not the next Steven Spielberg — or the next Jeff Tice or Michael Carter — you can create great-looking, professional-quality in-house videos for your business by following these simple suggestions.

1. Avoid Wardrobe Malfunctions

Guide your interview subjects on apparel and jewelry that looks best on camera.

  • Tight and busy patterns on clothing and ties can be distracting to the viewer.
  • Large and dangling jewelry can also be distracting.
  • Solid colors look best on screen.
  • Tiepins and broaches will distract viewers.

2. Get Great Sound

The quality of the built-in microphone in most handheld video cameras is generally poor — with a few notable exceptions — and it can make even the best-looking video seem amateurish. If your video rig doesn't include an external microphone, try these tips for getting great audio from your camera:

  • When filming your subject, try to stand no more than three feet away. In other words, your speaker should be as close to the camera as possible.
  • The microphone works best in an area with low background noises, such as machines running, equipment beeping, etc. Avoid shooting in areas where there are loud background noises, groups of people talking or overhead pages.
  • Avoid outside settings.
  • Plan your important recordings during slower or quiet times, or reserve a quiet space such as an office or conference room.
  • Be mindful of any white noise, buzzing sounds from fluorescent lights, or air conditioning vents. All of these noises will be audible in your video.

3. Keep it Steady

Unless you want the Blair Witch Project effect (and trust us, you don't!), keeping the camera steady is extremely important.

  • Try to keep the camera as still as possible by holding the camera with both hands pulled in to your chest.
  • Use a tripod, monopod or other method to hold the camera still while shooting.
  • Inexpensive table tripods are usually available wherever cameras are sold.

4. Light it Up

Handheld cameras usually require additional light. Generally speaking, the more light, the better.

  • Use the lighting in your room to your advantage.
  • Table top and stand lamps can be used as supplemental lighting.
  • Use natural light from a window to help light your subject's face.
  • Do not stand your subject in front of a bright window. Silhouettes do not make for good videos.
  • When shooting outdoors, make sure the sun is behind the camera operator, not in front.

5. Find the Right Setting

Pick an interesting backdrop for your video.

  • If you're staying in one place, avoid blank walls.
  • Find a background that is visually interesting, but watch for anything that might put "antlers" on your subject, such as potted plants or lamps.
  • Avoid backgrounds like mini-blinds and small, tight patterns. These often cause a distracting "wave" effect on camera.
  • Avoid shooting in crowded areas because you will not be able to control who will show up in the background of your video.

6. Frame Your Subjects Properly

  • Watch your subject closely, and be sure to leave headroom.
  • Angles are good, but watch out for glare and reflections.
  • Good framing places the subject in the center of the frame with just a little space above their head.
  • Place the subject in a well-lit room, but make sure the light comes from the front, not the back. In other words, the light should hit the subject's front, as opposed to coming from behind the subject.

7. Help Your Subjects "Give Good Camera"

Be mindful of the subject's facial expressions.

  • Eye-rolling, frowning or facial tics, even when caused by nerves, can come across as annoyance or anger.
  • Make sure your subject is comfortable before shooting so their true personality shines through in the video.
  • Stand directly behind the camera, so that the person feels like they're talking to you, not the camera.

8. Don't Zoom Zoom

Zooming in and out will only degrade the quality of your images (not to mention, make your audience dizzy).

  • Don't use the zoom feature; keep it wide.
  • Keep the camera close to the subject.

9. Add Some Music

Be aware of US copyright law concerning music. Just because you bought a song on iTunes, doesn't mean you can use it in your video. Popular songs are very expensive to license, and you must obtain written permission from the rights holder. The times when you can use a piece of popular music without permission are few and specific:

  • Under the fair use doctrine of the US copyrigth statute, it is permissible to use limited portions of a work including quotes, for purposes such as commentary, criticism, news reporting and scholarly reports.
  • Music that is playing in an environment where you are taping is generally okay to use, in short segments. So if you are taping at a charity event and the band plays a movie theme, it's okay to leave it in the video. But  you cannot replace the music in editing with a professional version of the song.

Not sure where to go for royalty-free tunes? Check out these sources:

Keep in mind that royalty-“free” doesn’t mean it won’t cost you. You may find free royalty-free music, but in many cases, you will have to pay for the song before you can download it. When it doubt, check the guidelines and/or restrictions on the supplier’s website.

Other Tips and Tricks

  • Your fingers can easily smudge the lens. Clean the lense with a soft cloth as needed before each recording.
  • Practice shooting short clips in different lighting and noise situations before your actual shoot. On "set," do a short test shot to make sure sound and lighting are good.
  • If possible, have your subject practice once or twice before recording.
  • Save all recorded video until you make your final decision.


Kristin Masters

Kristin Masters is a former madison/miles media team member.