Video Essentials

10 Simple Rules for Shooting Effective Marketing Videos

Content Rules, an extremely useful book by Ann Handley (chief content officer for MarketingProfs) and C.C. Chapman (founder of on creating all kinds of online content, has just been released in paperback. We’re thrilled to present this excerpt.

Although we are about to discuss a few basics of shooting an engaging video, we encourage you to pick up a copy of Get Seen by our friend and video expert Steve Garfield (John Wiley & Sons, 2010). If you are going to get serious about video creation, his book will walk you through everything you need to know to do it right.

Every video you shoot will be different, but here are 10 points to keep in mind when filming:

  1. Know your equipment by experimenting with it. The only way you’ll know what your camera can do and what all the options are is to actually get out there and use it. Don’t wait until you need the camera for a shoot to use it for the first time.
  2. Get away from as much noise as possible. You don’t have to lock yourself in your office or a studio, but you also don’t want to stand on a busy street corner amid noisy traffic. Natural surroundings will add to the human feel of the video, but if viewers can’t hear what you are saying, what’s the point? (By the way, we essentially ignored this rule when we shot our Content Rules announcement video for our blog. Oops.)
  3. Be aware of lighting. Make sure that you are in a bright room if you’re shooting indoors or that there’s plenty of daylight if you are filming outside. Lighting is often overlooked, but it is crucial if you want people to be able to see you or what is going on around you. When in doubt, make sure the light source is in front of your subject.
  4. Beware of shadows. If you film outside, try not to stand with the sun at your back: you’ll end up as just a dark shadow in the video. The result will be the same if you are filming in front of a window with light streaming in. Always look at what the shot looks like on the camera. Do a quick test run and play it back. No one enjoys watching a talking shadow on-screen.
  5. Be careful about music playing in the background, because any music used in your video has to be licensed to legally appear in the video. Plenty of independent musicians would gladly license their music to you. You can also buy royalty-free music online. Keep in mind that it is better to add music in when you are editing the video, not while you are shooting it.
  6. If you are using the camera’s built-in microphone, your subject needs to be fairly close to the camera. The more you shoot, the better you’ll understand how sensitive your particular setup is. Most cameras have a headphone jack that a helper can use to listen in during the recording to make sure voices can be heard. Audio is obviously critical to video.
  7. Make sure that the camera is as stable as possible. Tripods guarantee that the camera will not move. If you need to shoot with a handheld camera, however, try to minimize a shaky hand.
  8. Consider perspective and framing. If you want the viewer to focus on what you are saying, frame the shot closely around the speaker. But if you want to highlight your surroundings, warehouse, event venue, the commotion in the background, or what have you, zoom out a bit to show more. Composition is important.
  9. After you film each clip, immediately watch it to gauge its quality. Better to film again on the spot than to have to reschedule a shoot. The worst thing you can do is to spend time filming a lot of footage that, once you get back to your computer, turns out to be unusable.
  10. Smile, relax, and have fun!

That final rule might be the most important one. Remember the video we mentioned earlier, the one we shot to announce this book? We did it in a single take. As we played it back, we realized that because we’d shot it near a busy street, the sound wasn’t great. We decided to use the video anyway, because it conveyed spontaneous energy. In other words, we had fun, and it captured exactly what we wanted.

Was it perfect? Far from it, but we were okay with it because we thought it illustrated our point nicely: you want the quality of your video to be good or great, but it’s more important that what is said and shown in the video is what your audience wants or needs.

Excerpted with permission of the publisher John Wiley & Sons, Inc. from Content Rules: How to Create Killer Blogs, Podcasts, Videos, Ebooks, Webinars (and More) That Engage Customers and Ignite Your Business, Revised and Updated Edition by Ann Handley and C. C. Chapman.  Copyright (c) 2012 by Ann Handley and C. C. Chapman. This book is available at all bookstores and online booksellers.

Video shoot image via Shutterstock.


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