Saying “cheese!” is rarely enough. Speaking to camera is a particular and specific skill. It is not like delivering a standard speech on stage to a live audience. That means you need to think differently and quite carefully whenever you’re put in front of a camera to persuade or inform and audience.
We think about the camera as if it simply records what is in front of it, and certainly it is true that we need to be on top form whenever we’re in front of the lens. There are also some key skills you can deploy in order to enhance the final result. That is, the camera may not lie … but it can be persuaded to present you positively.
Here, then, are some my top tips for speaking when in front of a camera. Of course, every recorded piece to camera is different, and you’ll need to tweak your approach for the context. These, however, are great rules of thumb I’ve found to work in a broad range of situations.
Firstly, keep your eyes steady on the lens. If you look from side to side while speaking, you will appear untrustworthy. If you feel you absolutely must look away, then it is much better to look down momentarily and then back up again.
Don’t be afraid of blinking, either. Blinking as you usually would looks natural, and your audience will barely notice it.
Often, you will be portrayed in what the industry terms a “mid shot”. This shows your head and shoulders, and half way down your upper body. In other words, your audience will see just under the bust-line for women and half-way down the shirt for men.
In these situations, keep your body fairly still. Because of their restricted and artificial view of you, any movement you make will be exaggerated to the viewer. Don’t run your hands through your hair, for example, or wave them around too much when you speak. Both of these actions will be very distracting.
Small movements like tilting your head to one side, raising your eyebrows, smiling or giving a small hand gesture, meanwhile, can make you appear more relaxed and conversational. Don’t be as stiff as a board – the camera will not make you look good if you are frozen in fear!
Finally, what you wear is also extremely important. Herringbone, checks and thin stripes will often produce a moiré pattern, which is a visual shimmering effect on the screen. We’ve all seen this on TV at one point or another, and it can be very distracting. Solid colours are usually best for this reason – though solid black and solid white do not come over well. Try a royal blue or a light grey.
Simple, right? Keep these tips in mind and you will quickly become the master of the camera … and you won’t have to say cheese once.