Whether you’re new to creating videos or a seasoned behind the scenes professional, facing your first time in front of the camera can be scary. However, just like learning to do voice overs like a pro, a few simple tips can go a long way to making you better on camera.
If you’re looking to create internal communications, social media clips, or professional-looking YouTube videos, this blog post will show you exactly what to do to get comfortable in front of the camera.
Looking good is key
Let’s face it, we can’t all be supermodels or Hollywood stars. Those people have stylists, hairdressers, and makeup artists to make them ready for public viewing. We may not have access to that level of help, but we can all do a few basic things to help us look better on camera.
I admit it. I’m a sloucher.
I don’t mean to be, and I’m certainly better than I was when I was a teen. But sometimes I still catch myself slouching in a mirror, and I can hear my mother’s voice ringing in my ears to this day: “RYAN! Stand up straight! Put your shoulders back!”
She knew what I didn’t at that age. We all look better with good posture. So, whenever you’re on camera, take some advice from my mom and remember to stand up straight. Keep your shoulders rolled back and your chin up.
You’ll look more confident and, ultimately, feel more confident, too.
2. Body language
How you present yourself physically tells people a lot about what you feel inside.
Don’t turn your body away from the camera and avoid folding your arms for long periods of time. Both of these can make you look closed off or as if you are avoiding open communication.
Instead, face the camera and let your arms hang naturally at your side. If you’re a hand talker (like me), it’s also okay to be more animated with your arms and hands, as long as you don’t overdo it. Too much movement can be distracting to your audience.
Finally, don’t be afraid to ask your crew or coworkers how you look. They may be able to give you some tips as well.
3. Where to look
Have you ever been watching a live TV broadcast and caught the host looking at the wrong camera? It’s off-putting, at best. Now, you may not be working with a fancy multi-camera setup, but knowing where to look is equally as important.
Many of us find it pretty daunting to look directly into the camera, but that’s really your best bet. At the very least, you should be looking about two inches above it. To your audience, it’ll look like you’re looking directly at the camera, but it may help alleviate that nervousness you feel at staring right down the lens.
I had a teacher in high school who used to say you’re never fully dressed without a smile, and that couldn’t be more true when you’re on camera. A smile tells your audience that you’re happy to be sharing knowledge with them and will help them feel better about you.
But, make sure that your smile looks genuine. A pasted-on, fake smile can make your audience feel uneasy, and you certainly don’t want that. Some people like to keep a mirror behind the camera so they can see how they look during the shoot. If there’s a video monitor available, that can help, too.
One caveat: There are certain times when a cheerful smile may not be appropriate. If you’re delivering bad news of some kind, it may be better to adopt a more neutral facial expression. But, overall, a smile is your friend!
5. How to dress
Speaking of being fully dressed, how should you dress for the camera? Unfortunately, there’s no right answer. Dress appropriately for the situation and subject matter. A three-piece suit probably won’t be right for an outside shoot in the woods, but hikers and a boonie hat probably won’t be appropriate for a report on your company’s Q2 profits (unless you work for Patagonia).
The best advice I can give is to dress in what makes you feel comfortable on camera.
Pro tip: if you will use a lav mic, you may want to wear a blazer or sportcoat, or at least a button-up shirt. It’ll be easier to hide the cord and place the mic at an optimal level to capture your voice.
How to speak confidently on camera
Once you’ve mastered looking good on camera, think about how to speak with confidence. Even the best looking on-camera personality will have trouble engaging an audience if they can’t remember what they’re talking about or mumble their way through a segment. Luckily, gaining confidence in your on-camera speech isn’t that hard.
6. Know your topic
The most important thing you can do to speak confidently is to know your subject matter and main points. As you gain experience, you may be better at winging it, but there is simply no substitute for being prepared.
7. Have a script
Preparing a script of everything you want to say gives you a chance to ensure you actually get to say everything you want to say. Too often when people try to wing it on camera, they forget a crucial point or wander off topic to the point where they may even forget what they were trying to convey.
Even a bullet point list of your most important information is better than nothing. But, for people who are new to being in front of the camera, I recommend starting with a full script and, as you become more comfortable on camera, you can find out what works best for you.
8. Practice practice practice
While this may not always apply to live video, any time you are recording a video for sharing later, practice what you want to say.
As the saying goes, practice makes perfect.
Take your script or bulleted list and run through it a few times. Make sure there isn’t an awkward phrase that makes you stumble over your words. Take some time to think about pauses and inflection, so you don’t sound like a robot.
Also, don’t be afraid to use cue cards or a teleprompter if one is available. Even if you choose to not read your script word for word, having it there for you to see can help keep you on track and avoid going off topic.
A few other things to consider to get comfortable on camera
While I’ve covered most of the basics on how to be better on camera, there are a few other things that can help, as well.
9. Make sure you have plenty of time
Nothing can make you feel more anxious and unprepared as having to rush around because of a looming deadline. Whenever possible, plan your shoot with enough time to accommodate issues such as other people not being on time, problems with hardware, problems with software, and other things that may be out of your control.
Give yourself a lot of time and don’t worry if it takes you awhile to complete your video. Having time to do the job right will help you feel more relaxed and more confident.
When I coached roller derby, I had my athletes begin hydrating three days before we had to play a game. For on-camera appearances, hydrating for three days is probably a bit of overkill, but I would definitely start hydrating at least 24 hours before a shoot. It takes a while for your body to truly absorb the moisture you’re putting in, so you want to give it the time it needs.
On the day of the shoot, keep hydrating. You don’t have to overdo it, but drink plenty of water and be sure to have water and maybe even some hot tea available with you while you’re shooting. Your voice (and your audience) will thank you.
The final tips
11. Mark your spot
If you will be moving, make sure you place markers on the floor so you know where to be and your camera knows where to follow.
12. Limit distractions
It may be fun to have an entourage, but having too many people with you could distract you from the job at hand. Other distraction can include anything from social media to texts from your mom. Bottom line: If it will distract you from the job at hand, put it aside until you’re done.
13. Forget about perfection
Remember that your video doesn’t have to be perfect to be good. Your audience will appreciate knowing you’re human, so a slight word fumble isn’t the end of the world. Keep going and finish strong.
Just like anything else, being good on camera takes practice. The more you do it, the better you’ll get. But these tips can help you jumpstart your confidence and ensure that whether it’s your first time on camera or your 1,000th, you’ll look and sound as professional as possible.