Camera Shy? You Don’t Have to Be.

It’s funny, you know…there was a time that I can remember (because I’m sort of old), when one didn’t have to ever worry about appearing in front of a video camera if they didn’t want to. It was easy to be camera shy, because not that many people had cameras to stick in your face.

Nowadays, video cameras are everywhere. I’m looking around me right now and I count six, just in my office alone (ok, I know, I’m a TV producer, but even if I wasn’t I’d probably have at least 3!) No matter where you go, you can pretty much see someone shooting video in some fashion or another. And now, more than ever, people want to point that camera at you. You may even be thinking about trying to point the camera at yourself. Video is part of our culture now, and it’s one of the most effective ways to capture stories.

The problem is, if you’re camera shy, the entire thought of going in front of a camera is enough to make you cringe (and possibly run screaming from the room).

So what’s a camera shy future Internet maven to do? Well, after 20 years or so in the video business, I can tell you I’ve pretty well seen it all when it comes to getting nervous in front of the camera. And I can also tell you that there most definitely IS a cure for camera shyness. It does take some effort, but if you want to overcome, following these tips, as a start, can help.

Look the Part
Oh, I’m probably going to get an earful for this one. But honestly, if you want to feel more confident about how you look in front of the camera, you have to pay some attention to how you look…in front of the camera. Now, I’m not saying you need to bust out the Just for Men, or start wearing crimson lipstick when cosmetics aren’t your thing. But being comfortable in front of the camera means you need to be comfortable with how you look. So, comb your hair (or mess it up, if that’s what you do). Wear clothes that fit you well and that you’re comfortable wearing. Make sure the colours look good on you, and avoid anything with loud patterns or fine stripes, as these can be distracting. Don’t go overboard on jewellery – simple is best (in other words, leave the bling in your jewellery box). And most importantly, sit up straight, and smile.

How to Talk to a Camera
Don’t let anyone fool you – it’s really hard to stare down the lens of the camera and just “act natural” on the first go. The first few times you do it, you’ll likely feel like a complete goof. After all, you’re talking to an inanimate object.

The best way to get used to talking directly into a camera is to look right through that little black circle of lens, and imagine that on the other side of it is one of the nicest, friendliest people you know. Get a clear picture of that person in your head. Now just imagine you are talking ONLY to that person. Forget who else might see this video, or who may be listening in live. Just focus on talking to that one person.

If you practice with this, you’ll soon find that every time you have to talk into the camera, you’ll feel like you’re just chatting with your best friend, and your audience will feel your warmth and energy. It may not happen immediately, but just imagine that friendly face, and it will get easier.

How to Be Interviewed
Of course, even if you don’t ever get to the point where you’re talking into the camera, there’s always a chance someone will want to interview you. This can be just as nerve-wracking as staring down the lens. Fear of stumbling or not knowing how to answer a question are the biggest reasons people become a jumble of nerves when being interviewed. There are a couple of ways to become more confident in an interview.

Preparation is key. Try to find out in advance what the subject of the interview will be (even if you just have a few words with the interviewer off camera a couple of minutes beforehand). Don’t ask what the specific questions will be, but ask the interviewer what kinds of things they’d like you to talk about. Then take a few minutes to collect your thoughts, or find any details you may need. Then, when the interview starts, just treat it like a conversation.

Also, when you’re asked a question, try not to say just “yes”, or “no”. Elaborate as much as possible. Make eye contact with the interviewer. If they’re good, they will give you subtle cues, like a head nod or a blink, to let you know you’re on the right track. Don’t ramble on too long. If you feel like you’re babbling, wrap it up and let the interviewer move to the next question.

Practice Makes Perfect
Like anything, being comfortable in front of the camera takes practice. If you want to overcome the nerves, then you just have to get in front of the camera as much as possible. The best thing you can do is practice recording yourself. Record a bit of you talking on any topic you want, and then play it back and critique yourself. The first time you see yourself on camera you will definitely cringe. Your voice will sound funny and you’ll notice that cowlick in your hair for the first time. But the more you see yourself, the more used to it you’ll get, and the better you’ll get at presenting yourself. Practice doing interviews with a friend or colleague. Interview each other then play it back and give each other feedback. It’s the simplest and best way to get your story down and get comfortable with having that kind of conversation.

If you’re in any way involved in new media, chances are you’ll eventually be put in front of a camera. By taking a few simple steps and of course, practicing, you’ll feel more comfortable as time goes on. Who knows, you might even start to enjoy it!

[photo credit: cake_face on Flickr]

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  • May 17, 2011 at 9:38 am

    Great tips Suze. Thanks.

  • May 17, 2011 at 7:35 pm

    Great tips.

    I was shocked by how much prep it took for my news appearances last fall! Hours!

    But it was worth it.

    Just wish I’d read some of these before those segments! 🙂

  • May 20, 2011 at 4:14 pm

    Love these. The only thing that makes me nervous is a lack of broadcast voice. And I tend to look like I’m slouching even when I’m not. But, other than that and a rake for my curly hair, I’m good to go! (*laughing on the inside like a mad woman*)

  • November 17, 2011 at 2:32 pm

    thank you for this info. I’m struggling because i need to do a short video for my company and although i’m great on stage in front of several hundred people, it seems when i’m talking to the lens it’s a whole other story…i’m either goofy or completely flat. it’s taking quite a bit of time to get over the hump. frustrating for sure!

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