If you Google “digital marketing trends”, one of the ideas you’re going to run across a lot is videos. Videos have become a new way to connect to your audience and a good way to draw new customers in. Many digital marketing experts will tell you that with a quality smartphone, you too can make your own videos. For the most part, they’re right but what a lot fail to tell you is that making a video is more than putting your phone in selfie mode and pressing start. There’s more to it. But with a little work, you can make a professional looking video without paying professional prices. Here are 5 quick tips to make sure your next video (or your first) looks professional.

Plan Ahead

You may be the best impromptu speaker in the world. If you are, awesome. You’re one of the few. In reality, you’re probably just a good speaker who needs a little practice before you get up there and talk. There’s nothing wrong with that. But if it’s true, you understand the importance of planning ahead. Think about your video as a presentation you’re going to give to your boss. You want to know what you’re going to say ahead of time, even if it’s just bullet points. It’s going to make your video infinitely better.

Properly Light Your Set

Professionals use a method called three-point lighting. While it’s a professional term, it’s something you can easily do with a few house lamps and proper positioning. Think of your “set” like a clock with you or your subject serving as the center point. The camera is positioned at the 6 o’clock position. At the 4 o’clock position is the brightest light, also known as the key light. At 8 o’clock is a fill light that’s less bright than the key light. Positioned between 1 and 2 o’clock is the backlight. When you position lights in this method, you’re making sure you are well lit, but still have natural looking shadows within your video.

Clean and Crisp Audio is a Must

There’s nothing worse than watching a video that has a lot of noise. At the very least, it’s distracting. At the very most, you can’t hear the most important part of the video — the speaker! I don’t care how good you think the microphone on your phone is, you need an external mic. The good news for you, there’s plenty to choose from on Amazon and they’re not expensive. A unidirectional microphone will pick up sound from the object that it’s pointed at and drown out surrounding noise. You might also consider a lavaliere microphone. It’s like what you see on TV. It clips to your collar and picks up what you’re saying. If you go this route, make sure there’s nothing brushing up against the microphone, such as your clothing or your chin as you move around.

Buy a Tripod

A shaky video can be distracting and for some, nauseating. Unless you’re doing a walk and talk or shooting a video of something that’s happening around you, your camera should not be moving. Just like the microphones, you can find a pretty inexpensive tripod on Amazon. Buy one. Use one. Your viewers will thank you.

Frame Your Shot Properly

This means putting the most important thing, namely you, in the middle of the picture, but allowing for proper space around you. For example, leave space between the top of your head and the top of the video frame. Also, leave space on your right and left. If you’re just showing the upper half of your body, don’t shoot too close. Make sure we can see your shoulders and part of your chest. If you get too close, you look like a floating head and that’s no better than cutting off the top of your head. If you need examples of proper framing, watch the television news. When you look at the anchors, you’ll notice there’s space above their heads and space on each side. You never see just a neck and head, you always see shoulders too. If you’re looking at a full shot of an anchor’s body, you see her feet and some floor, not just her feet. If a shot is framed improperly, it can distract from your message.

Bonus Tip!

There’s a term in television called “live to tape”. What it means is when you’re shooting a video and you make a minor mistake, you don’t stop, you keep it going. Maybe you correct yourself, maybe you ignore it. The point is, you do it all in one take. There’s good reason for this. It means you don’t have to edit video and it looks more natural, less rehearsed. Shooting your videos in a live to tape format saves you time and energy and does not make your video look any less professional. Written by Erika Towne