10 tips for being better on camera

It’s your second round of shooting video tips for aspiring wedding planners. You just have to sit at the desk in your office and read the script. The editors will take care of covering most of the video with appropriate b-roll and still photographs. You’re really only going to be on camera for the first five and last five seconds of the video. You wrote these tips yourself, you know the information like the back of your hand.

Why, then, are you breaking out into a cold sweat? Being on camera—there’s nothing to it! It’s just… it’s just…

You want to scream. You want to run out of the room. You had this reaction during the first round of videos, and even though everyone said you looked great in them you thought it was awful, you seemed so stiff, so uncomfortable. Who would want to hire a wedding planner like that, much less emulate one?

A little tense, are we? These tips will help you relax and enjoy your time on camera

A little tense, are we? These tips will help you relax and enjoy your time on camera

Stop right there. Before we even get started with the 10 tips, we’re going to give you the most important one of all: Stop beating yourself up! It’s natural to be nervous when you’re on camera. You can be smooth and at ease when having a personal conversation with anyone ranging from Popes to Presidents. It doesn’t mean you’ll feel that way when the director yells “Action!”

Well, in the first place you don’t have someone yelling “Action!” before you start conversations in any other circumstance, do you? You start talking or listening because it feels natural and comfortable. You’re not doing it on command. Imagine how you would feel if someone grabbed you by the arm at a party, dragged you over to a complete stranger, and yelled “Talk!” then stood there eying you like an hawk, ready to pounce and scream “Stop!” if you make the teensiest error.

Yeah, no pressure there.

Almost everyone is nervous their first few times on camera. Having worked in the news business, we can tell you a lot of funny stories that other journalists have related to us about the colossal flubs they made in their early days. With that, we’ll start the tips with:

1) Relax. If you make a mistake you can just start over. Remember, this is a video, not live television. You really do get more than one chance to get it right.

2) Breathe. More specifically, breathe properly. When we get tense our breathing becomes shallow. In turn, that feeling of shortness of breath fuels the panic reflex. In between takes, and right before starting a new one, take several deep breaths. If this is consistently a problem for you, and you know you’re going to do a lot of videos, consider talking to a vocal or singing coach. They may be able to help you adjust your breathing as singers do, so you don’t feel like you’re running out of air.

3) Don’t talk to the camera. Talk to the camera operator. Or, ask the producer or another crew member to stand or sit near the camera, and pretend you’re actually talking to that person. It can make your delivery much more natural and relaxed. If you’re giving video tips, as in the example cited above, you may ask the person to feed you a question to get the conversation started. That can easily be edited out of the final video. Eventually you’ll get used to doing this without pretending you’re talking to anyone.

A few simple steps will help you feel confident on camera

A few simple steps will help you feel confident on camera

4) Stay hydrated. When you get dehydrated you can lose focus and concentration and become more edgy. But don’t overdo it. You’ll get those same side effects if you’re sitting there waiting to burst.

5) Don’t be afraid to ask for breaks if you need them. If something isn’t clicking for you, or you really feel like you’re not at your best, you may be getting fatigued. It’s not an endurance test. Even 10 minutes away from the camera allows you a chance to walk around and stretch and gets the blood flowing more freely to the places that need it, including your brain.

6) Watch the caffeine. If you need your morning cup of coffee or your afternoon cup of tea, by all means have it. You’re not doing yourself any favors by forcing your body to break its normal routine. But don’t overdo it. Even if it doesn’t make you feel more nervous, caffeine can affect your on-camera performance by causing you to talk too rapidly or act jittery.

7) If you’re using a teleprompter, don’t try to anticipate what’s coming next even if you wrote the material yourself. Focus only on what’s on the prompter. Trying to jump ahead can make you appear nervous, and it can also cause you to stumble over your words. If you feel the prompter is moving too slowly you can always ask the crew to adjust the scroll speed.

8) Be willing to do rehearsals before the day of the shoot. At Hencar, we like to have people go over the material early so that we can change anything that doesn’t work, and so that you can get a feel for how to deliver it most effectively. It will be less stressful for you to get feedback from us ahead of the shoot, since you’ll have time to make adjustments and practice them further.

9) Your body was made to move. Let it. Don’t sit there as stiff as a board unless your video is entitled “The Amazing Talking Corpse”. If you normally use your hands when talking, then do so when shooting the video, but be aware that the camera can magnify gestures and make them seem broader than usual. Most of us make small movements with our heads when we talk as well. Viewers expect that. It’s called kinesics. If you force yourself to stay perfectly still, not only do you feel unnatural but the viewer will feel ill at ease too, because you’re not displaying the body language normally associated with interpersonal communication. This is also something you can address during rehearsals. You can ask the production company reps for feedback on your body language, and even have them record you on your cellphone so that you can get an idea of where you may need to loosen up and where you may need to reel it in.

10) Put it in perspective. In the grand scheme of things, even if you’re not thrilled with your first few appearances on camera it’s unlikely to have a significant impact on your life. Take it as an opportunity to work out the kinks so that you can be even better in your next videos. When you get really comfortable on camera, you may be ready to offer your services as an on-air expert to various media outlets, which will be a giant step up for you. You’ll also feel more comfortable speaking before large groups if that’s part of your calling.

As we said at the beginning, don’t beat yourself up over the things you think went wrong. Few people instantly played the piano with concert-level finesse on their first try. Just like them, you have to work at honing your on-camera skills. Above all, seek feedback from the production company and from objective observers any chance you get. You may be surprised to find that the things you thought were glaring faults were of no account at all to anyone else.