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How to look good on camera | 5 things you need to know before the shoot

You’ve planned your shoot, hired your photography or video team, finagled friends & co-workers to appear on camera. Great! You’re ready to go, right? Almost. Whenever I’m working with clients I encourage them to consider these 5 things to dial up the images we create from a B to an A+. In some cases, addressing the items on this list can save your shoot from disaster. Let’s get started!

#1 What is the sound situation?

If audio is important to your video production, we need to make sure we’re in a location with as little background noise as possible.

  • Are we trying to shoot an interview next to a road with noisy trucks or in a room with loud air conditioning we can’t turn off?

  • Is there a lot of foot traffic?

  • Are there a lot of hard surfaces that can cause an echo? Bring a sound blanket (or a moving blanket) to reduce echo.

  • Even if you think you have the best microphones in the world, background noise can hurt your sound quality and distract your on-camera talent or interviewee.

#2 What’s the lighting situation?

  • The lights at your location may flicker. Sure, you may be able to minimize this in post, but that means more work and a question mark hanging over your head. Test out the house lights and play back on your camera, look out for flicker. Usually we turn off the house lights, and point a bright light at the ceiling, which mimics the look of overhead lights.

  • If you have a limited lighting kit, you may need a location with a little more ambient lighting. If you want to light from scratch, you’ll probably need more kit and you’ll have to make sure you can black out the room.

  • That brings us to our next consideration, windows.

#3 Windows.

Windows can add depth and light to your shots, but they also mean you’re at the mercy of a light source you can’t control: the sun.

  • Think about what direction the windows face. If they’re facing south that means you could have direct sunlight coming through all day.

  • We like to pack a couple of sheer curtains and a blue blackout curtain so that if we end up needing to shoot into a window, we have more control over the amount of lighting coming in. You can hang these off a combo stand, or just gaff tape them to the top of the window just out of frame.

#4 Hair & makeup.

If you can afford hair and makeup, do it! It’s one of those little things that can add that extra dash of professional look to your videography and photography. But, that’s not always within budget.

  • If you’re hiring professional talent, ask if they have experience doing their own hair and makeup.

  • For interviews and non-professional talent, keep an eye out for shine on the face. Just asking them to dab their face with a paper towel can go a long way in reducing shine.

  • Keep hair in mind. Don’t be shy about letting your talent know if you spot flyaways or a messy bun.

#5 Communication is key.

  • We like to get our clients involved in the video production process from the start. We often do a Keyword Exercise with them to help us envision the film. More about Keywords in a future post.

  • Make sure everyone knows where they need to be, when and what you’ll be doing there. We like to send out a call sheet (example below) that includes our schedule, a pared-down shotlist, location addresses and the contact information of everyone involved.

  • Before your shoot, get everyone on the same page. Don’t just tell them what you’re planning to do, but make sure they understand why. Even if it’s just an interview, make sure the person you’re interviewing understands who they’re speaking to and your vision for how the film will come together.

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