get down on it–with video

June 26, 2011

in DIY, Presentation Skills, Video

I love making videos. I get to make the same wacky faces I did when I was seven years-old looking at myself in the bathroom mirror. Also, it’s effortless (this is not true for everyone, but a good indicator of knowing if vlogging is for you). And, it highlights some of my best qualities. I started making videos because I gave myself such anxiety trying to write blog posts. I thought it was cheating for a long time … now I know it’s a gift to choose the “easy” way, especially when it works!

I get loads of questions about what I do to make videos that resonate–so here are some tips that work for me.

Prevent Laptop Earthquakes and Seasickness

Make sure your computer is on a flat, stationary surface (read: No laps, no beds).

Go Towards the Light

Make sure your face is well lit. No overhead fluorescent lights or one-sided sunshine (unless it’s balanced and not too contrasty). You want a light to be front and center (behind your camera and fairly even).
Look Up (or How to Hide Your Jowls)
Place the camera slightly above your face. It makes you look better. Plain and simple.

Put on Your (Best) Face

I have been against make up for most of my life–probably due to being raised by hippie/socialist/freedom fighters. Well–last year I had a bit of a reframe–so here’s my advice: wear just enough make up to remove barriers (i.e. people thinking you are a zombie), but not so much as to add barriers (i.e. people thinking you are Tammy Faye Baker). This is for the men too; a little shine-removal can go a long way in making you appear less amateur. Of course, there’s always the middle of the night, no make up at all approach.

Take Down Aunt Millie’s Framed Cross Stitch

You want a neutral background. Do what you need to do to remove distractions and disorder from the background that will be caught on camera. Also, you want to telecast your own style and brand. When in doubt–keep these three words in mind: Calm, clean and intentional.

Don’t be a Close-Talker

You want your face to be close enough to the camera so that it fills most of the frame, but not so close that we can peer into your pores. Make sure your forehead is close to the top of the screen and your face centered (this is key if you are recording Skype videos with ecamm to share because they get cropped from both sides).

Name That Tune

If you are going to use music in your video, consider only using it in the intro and at the end. Having it play, however softly, during your video can be distracting. Also, triple check you have the rights to include a song or sound in your video (I’m not providing legal advice here–if you are in doubt, don’t use it). A good resource for sound effects and royalty-free music is Sound Rangers.

Use YouTube and Vimeo

You’re really great, but not everyone will find you on your website. You’ll want to post your video to both YouTube and Vimeo (or TubeMogul, for you syndication types). Just be sure to write a mini description, with a link back to you, to go with them since they will be separated from your blog, where you probably have more a lead-in or description of the video.

Don’t Wear a T-shirt Printed with Your Website URL (Unless you are super cool like the folks over at, who do it well, for a purpose and, hey, they do it FOR you, so you don’t look, well, you know. OR if your shirt is your art, like RDQLUS).

That would just look lame and really, you don’t even want your website plastered at the bottom of your video for the whole thing. Post your URL at the beginning, middle and the end instead, and wear something without writing of any kind. Oh, and consider making your end cap title page run for at least four seconds so people have time to grab a paper and pen and jot down your URL without panicking. Also, always, ALWAYS include a full URL in the description of your video wherever it’s hosted (Vimeo, YouTube, etc.) as well as in your post.


I use super simple equipment–go with what you have. I also really dig flips and even started shooting with my iPhone last week.

1. Camera: Canon PowerShot Digital Elf SD1400IS, in pink. I always, always recommend having a spare (charged) battery and at least one or two SD cards handy.

2. Tripod: JOBY Gorrilapod. OR, there are always friendly strangers on the street (great for holding the camera when a moment worth capturing just happens).

Many thanks to Rachel Cole for asking, “hey, how’d you do that?” and taking a casual Skype conversation into this post.

Any other questions? What videos do you love?

Your turn: go ahead and link up your video creations in the comments below. I want to see what you’ve got!

  • KatieP

    Not vlogging exactly, but I have been experimenting with turning still photos into movies. I have made a few short videos, the most important one deals with what it like to left behind when your husband kills himself (Suicide Widow).
    You can check out my Vimeo page
    I prefer Vimeo because it has much better quality than YouTube, but YouTube gets all the traffic 🙂

  • Linda Eaves

    Dyana, I also thought vlogging was cheating. No more. Thanks for this: ” now I know it’s a gift to choose the “easy” way, especially when it
    works!” I like easy. And I put text below my videos so that everyone can be in on the conversation and get the message.
    Here’s my ritual wall video. Thanks to Sinclair and you for the idea! Love notes to yourself –

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