14 Tips to Put People at Ease on Camera

14 Tips to Put People at Ease on Camera

At Zing, we make films for businesses. This means we often film real people (management, employees, customers, etc) talking about their experiences. For example, click here to watch a snippet from a film we made about people’s experiences of exceptional customer service.

Some are naturals in front of a camera. Others can find it difficult. For a film to be successful, it’s important that the people it features feel relaxed and confident so they can speak naturally and authentically about the subject.

I’m sure you’ve seen a film that includes someone looking a little uncomfortable or nervous. It can be hard to watch and rather distracting. The audience focuses on the delivery and not the message. And it makes the film look unprofessional which doesn’t reflect well on the business or brand.

To help overcome this, we’ve pulled together 14 top tips to help put people at ease on camera. If you’re creating a film in-house, we hope you’ll find these helpful. If you have any questions or would like to find out more about how Zing can create high-quality films for your business without all the hassle, please drop us a message.

Stop! Before you do anything!

It’s vital that you are 100% clear on the client’s aims and objectives as well as the creative vision and structure of the film. This should inform everything you (and your team) do at every stage of the process. This will help you keep on track and on topic during the shoot, and means you’ll capture everything you need for the edit. It will also contribute towards a calm, relaxed atmosphere on set if there’s a clear plan and everyone knows exactly what you’re setting out to achieve.

Before shoot day

1 Arrange a one-to-one call in advance to chat through what to expect

At work 2335

Talking them through the day will help alleviate their fear of the unknown. Keep it light and friendly, offering empathy and reassurance if they’re apprehensive. Let them know you’re approachable and that you’ll try to make the experience as fun as possible. If you can’t get them on the phone (e.g. a busy CEO), contact their PA to talk through what they should wear and prepare, etc. (see points below)

2 Let them know what (if anything) they need to prepare

Usually, it’s best if people ‘just turn up and be themselves’. They will have been chosen for their knowledge the subject or because they have an interesting perspective, so it’s more engaging if they talk ‘off the cuff’ rather than reciting lines or reading a script. That said, do tell them what the film is about so they’re not caught out. Make sure they know where to go, how to get there, when to arrive, and that they have your mobile number in case of any problems.

3 What (not) to wear

People are generally more self-assured when they’re looking their best, so this is an important conversation. Usually, the right clothes are whatever makes them feel confident and comfortable, though it needs to be appropriate to the person’s role and of the subject matter. There are a few no-no’s: avoid intense stripes or checks (as they can cause strobing), graphic t-shirts, distractingly bright/bold colours or anything that clashes (or blends) with the background. And remember, studio lights are hot, so nothing too thick or woolly.

4 Don’t overlook hair and make-up

Make up

Make sure people know what’s expected of them. If your budget allows for a hair and make-up person, that’s great. But if you’re expecting the interviewee to do their own, be clear and upfront about it (and that includes the men!) Do bring some translucent powder though – essential for when people get shiny under those hot lights.

5 Make sure YOU are prepared. Think through the detail and try to pre-empt any issues

The more you are prepared, the more smoothly things will run, and the more relaxed the atmosphere will be. Have bullet point notes from your chat with the interviewee, including any anecdotes or stories they told you, so you can prompt them without putting words in their mouth.

When they arrive


6 Greet them with a smile

Be ready to meet and greet them with a friendly smile. Aim to have set up the tech before their arrival time, so they walk into a (reasonably) calm, organised environment. Take them to the green room or a quiet corner for tea, coffee, biscuits, etc. Introduce them to other contributors and key crew members, especially the director who can talk them through the process of the day.

7 Choose your crew well

Choose crew members that you know work well as a team and that are good with new people. A harmonious atmosphere and a bit of friendly camaraderie make such a difference.

Lights, camera, action!

8 When it’s their moment in the spotlight, don’t make a big deal of it.

Having established a friendly relaxed atmosphere, you want to carry this over into the recording, so ease in gently. Go easy with the clapperboard and don’t suddenly shift into ‘serious interviewer’ mode. It should sound and feel like a continuation of your behind-the-scenes conversation.

9 Let them know where to look


At Zing, we usually ask people to look at the interviewer as it looks more natural and relaxed. This is called an off-camera interview. Talking straight-to-camera tends to only work for more formal presentations or presenter-led films or customer testimonials. In these instances, an EyeDirect® can really help as it allows people to see the director’s face in the camera lens to put them at ease.

10 Explain the oddities of interview-led conversations

If you plan on editing out the interviewer, remind them to incorporate your questions into their answers. e.g. Q: “What’s the cornerstone of your business?” A: “The cornerstone of our business is our people” (not just “Our people”!) And explain that after you’ve stated the question, you’ll be silent – there will be no ‘yep’s or ‘uh-huh’s or ‘mmm’s. It feels strange not to hear these reassuring noises and can throw people if they’re not expecting it.

11 Watch their body language but be cautious of drawing too much attention to it

Sit up straight … Unfold your arms … Keep your legs still … Little smile … That’s usually enough. If you throw in too many constraints, it’s overwhelming and detracts from their delivery. If they naturally sit hands-on-lap, that’s fine. Or they’re prone to wild gesticulation, that’s OK too. You want to capture them being authentic. (You can always crop in on their face in the edit!)

12 Try to capture their personality


Get your contributor talking about the more enjoyable aspects of their roles: the people they like working with and what makes them tick. If you can capture that passion, commitment and sparkle in their eyes, it will really bring your film to life.

13 If someone seems very nervous, empathise and take it steady

Few people love being filmed. Usually, adrenalin kicks in and gets them through. But if someone is particularly anxious, don’t rush things. Chat with them in a calm friendly voice. Get to know them. Tell them little jokes and stories. Share that you hate being filmed too! Give encouraging feedback between takes boost their confidence and help them relax into their performance. If the film is about a sensitive subject, reassure them that they’re safe and that there are no trick questions or right or wrong answers. If they’re not happy with something they said, make a note and promise you won’t use it.

14 What if they’re not ‘in the zone’?

Perhaps you’re filming a busy CEO who has just got off the red eye. Maybe your interviewee got roped in at the last minute. Again, it comes down to listening, empathy and rapport. Let them know you’re on their side and that you’ll make this as quick and painless as possible. Remind them of the film’s objective, who will see it, and that it’s in their own interests that they’re well-represented.

So, there you have it. We hope this helps you succeed with your in-house filming. Of course, another option, if you really want to create a high-quality professional film that delivers your message and shines the best light on your business or brand, is to get in touch with us! We’re always happy to have a friendly chat to find out about your objectives and to give you some ideas on how we can help.

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