Telling your stories through video is on the rise!  Whether you are making an announcement video for church, or celebrating a baptism, or just sharing your heart to a group of people, you want your videos to pop. You don’t need to work in Hollywood to make a great video.  Here are six quick tips for producing engaging video with simple equipment like a cell phone or a digital camera.

1. Before taping anything, GET READY.
Consider what you want to say before you say it.  The CONTENT or STORY is more important than the production value.  Here are some brainstorming questions to help you clarify your story: What’s the purpose of this video? Who is your audience? What do I want my audience to know, feel, or do after watching this video? Where should you shoot? Whom should you interview?

When you know the content, pre-interview any subjects so that you know what they might say on video.  Then, make a list of extra things to shoot, or extra pictures to gather, to help tell their story.  The pros call these extra pieces ‘B-roll’ or ‘cutaway shots’.

2. The two biggest keys to professional-looking video are good LIGHTING and good SOUND.
In most cases, you want to avoid SHADOWS in lighting and ECHOS in sound.  For video blogs or interviews, keep the subject front-and-center by avoiding high-contrast backgrounds or distracting sets.  For lighting, use just a little more brightness than you think and make sure the front of the subject is well let…bring a lamp nearby, or videotape in bright sunlight.   Pro-tip: use a cheap clip-on light to shine on your subject from above and behind…it will help them ‘pop out’ of any background.  Pro-tip #2: put two lights in front of your subject on either side to get rid of shadows on the nose or under the eyes.

For sound, keep the microphone as close to the subject as possible and get rid of as much background noise as possible.  If there is a consistent background noise, try to show it in the video…it helps the audience tune it out.  For example, if you are doing an interview at church and there are people milling around and chatting, make sure you see some of them in the background of the video.

3. Don’t do anything FAST.
Move slowly any time you are moving your camera or changing the zoom on your lens.  Use a tripod, hold your purse or camera bag from its strap under your camera, or simply brace your elbow with your non-shooting hand.

4. Framing is everything.
Use wide shots to identify your location, and then get close-ups to give your viewers an intimate feel for the setting and action. For interviews, use close-up shots, but set your camera in a way that your subject doesn’t completely fill the frame. This will allow viewers to get a sense of the background.

5. A little editing goes a long way.
Most Macs and PCs and Smartphones come with simple video-editing software that will let you combine videos/pictures, add simple transitions between shots, set your volume level, and cut out the extra stuff at each end of the video.  Avoid fancy transitions, and opt for simple fades or straight cuts.  Get to the heart of your story right away to grab your audience’s attention.

6. Get your stories out there…even if they aren’t perfect in your mind.
You will get better at making videos every time you make one.  Don’t let great be the enemy of good, and start putting out your stories as soon as you have something to say.  Again, your story is more important than your production quality.