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Six Questions to Ask Yourself Before You go on Camera

The technology available to create high quality professional video is ubiquitous, but unfortunately, this has permanently raised the bar. Viewers expect completely polished pieces and if your video doesn’t meet their standards, they are guaranteed to move on. Where viewers in the past may have accepted poor quality sound and grainy video, that is not always the case today. If you are planning to be on camera and want to have a professional and effective video presence, make note of these simple, yet important considerations.

Am I Using the Best Lighting?

Proper lighting is the most important factor in creating a high-quality picture. Natural light directly in front of a window is ideal, but if that’s not possible, you can create the light you need with ring lights or even lamps. Ring lights are great because they create soft even light all around the perimeter of your face. Larger ring lights will give you better light and more flexibility. If you don’t have the budget for an 18-inch ring light, just don’t go smaller than 10-inch. For best results, place the ring light slightly off center from your face and just above eye level with a small tilt toward you. This position will also help avoid catching the reflection of the ring in your glasses, if you are wearing them.

If you don’t have a ring light handy, it’s best to work with two lamps instead of one. Place each lamp at a 45-degree angle from your face and slightly higher than the camera lens, if possible. Avoid placing one bright light source directly in front of you as this could overexpose your face. Always avoid harsh shadows from lighting directly overhead.

Do I Have the Proper Camera Positioned Correctly?

Professional videos can be recorded with a quality digital camera, webcam, or even a smart phone. If you have a recent model smartphone, you can get great quality footage that may even be superior to your computer’s built-in webcam. If you are creating a video with your smartphone that will be streamed or loaded online, always shoot with your phone horizontally. Use the camera on the back of the smartphone, not the selfie mode camera. On most phones, the back of phone camera is higher quality, and this will also help you look at the lens and not yourself.

The most flattering camera angle is usually from slightly above and angled down. Always avoid placing the camera below your chin level. If your audience can see your ceiling, you probably don’t have the best camera angle. Be sure to put your camera on a sturdy surface or use a tripod. Shaky video footage is unprofessional and distracting for the viewer.

How Do I Sound?

When it comes to retaining your audience, your sound quality is actually more important than your professional video quality. Fuzzy indistinct audio is guaranteed to drop viewers almost immediately. When speaking, make sure you are close to your microphone and talk directly into it. Try to avoid rooms with poor acoustics. A smaller enclosed room with carpet will make a much better sound environment than a two-story great room with wood floors and a wall of windows. If you are really struggling with sound quality, it may be worth the investment to purchase an inexpensive external desktop or lavalier microphone.

What am I Wearing?

For this question, it’s important to consider your audience and your subject matter to ensure that your clothing conveys the proper message. You would choose more casual clothing if you were promoting a summer beach event than if you were presenting new research findings. If your topic is breast cancer awareness, consider wearing pink. Choose your virtual attire with the same careful thought as you would for a live speaking engagement.

In general, solid and rich jewel tones look best on camera and are flattering on almost every skin tone. Avoid wearing solid black or white. White can wash you out and black can make you disappear into the background. Also choose clothing colors that are in high contrast to the background. If the wall behind you is gray, don’t wear gray. If you are planning to use a green screen, don’t wear green. Avoid tight busy patterns and stripes as they tend to dance around on screen, especially with lower quality video. Keep your jewelry timeless and simple. Also, avoid clothing and jewelry with a lot of movement. If you are doing multiple takes you won’t have continuity if your outfit is positioned differently between takes.

What’s Behind Me?

If you are shooting a professional video, please ditch the virtual backgrounds, including the built-in blurred backgrounds available on video communications platforms. Unless you have a green screen with excellent, perfectly placed lighting you are going to have some distortion. The sparkly halo around your head is very distracting and instantly reduces the quality of your video.

A better and safer option is to set up what’s behind you to look professional. You only need to prepare a very small sliver of your home or office. Select a backdrop with simple art, a lamp, some books, a plant, or a few items on a shelf as opposed to plain white walls. A partial hallway or multiroom view can also work well and add interesting angles to your shot. Make sure that any windows or reflective surfaces behind you are not inadvertently picking up the camera or other equipment in the reflection. Keep everything behind you neat and tidy and try placing yourself and your camera approximately six feet from your background to help keep the focus on you.

What am I Saying?

Make sure you know your content. Practice makes perfect! Appearing confident and prepared on camera has an enormous impact on the professionalism of your video.

Look directly into the lens instead of reading your notes or watching your video. Prepare a simple keyword outline on sticky notes placed on the camera. If you are using a computer with a webcam, type your outline and then minimize your word processing software down to a small window just below your camera’s lens. Don’t read your script, use it as a reminder. The best content is always impromptu and from the heart.

Viewers expect professionalism. If you are producing novice video, best case is that you are creating content that people likely won’t watch. Worst case is that you are damaging your brand by appearing incompetent and unprofessional. In either case, you are missing the opportunity to share your message.

This post is courtesy of MMC Account Manager Allison Stephanouk

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