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8 Tips to Help You Unleash the Power of Video By Mike and Kristin Suraw

What’s your video strategy?

Video is everywhere. According to YouTube’s statistics, over 1 billion unique users visit YouTube monthly, and over 6 billion hours of video are watched on their site every month. And by the way, that is up 50 percent from last year.

Last night, I visited Kickstarter’s site. On it, people get to read text, look at pictures, and, yes, watch videos about projects they might be interested in funding. I was fascinated by the particular campaign on which I landed.

Two girls were raising money to finish the work on an album they already recorded. I read about them, saw their pictures, and ultimately, watched their video. The video is what made their personalities come to life. It was endearing, fun, and quirky, and it made me like the two girls and want them to succeed.

It was also clear they produced the video themselves. But even though it’s homemade, it will probably get them fantastic results!

Here’s the thing: video production can cost a lot of money. There is a time and place to hire a production company (or we’d be out of business!). Still, within every organization, there are opportunities for you to capture your cinematic gold.

Do you have a YouTube channel? You should. And it can be filled with content you capture yourself. Here are eight tips to help you unleash the power of video:

1. In-House Versus Outsourcing

Understanding when to produce video in-house and when to outsource is essential. If your content can stand independently without much editing, and the video’s purpose is more of a simple update, consider capturing it yourself. If your video needs to tie together multiple aspects of your organization, needs to impress a group of people, or meet specific goals, consider hiring a production company that specializes in this type of work.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself when trying to determine what to do yourself and what to outsource:

  • What is the purpose of the video?
  • What resources do you have?
  • What is your content?
  • Who is your audience?

2. Messaging Strategy

If you decide to do a video yourself, ensure you are purposeful with its execution. Before diving right into production, ask yourself the following questions and then make sure everything in the video advances your goals:

  • What is our objective?
  • Who are we trying to influence?
  • What do we want the audience to think, feel or do?
  • How will we define success?

3. Choosing a Story

Once you define your goals, you can choose someone to tell your story. We are hardwired to listen to and respond to a good story, and good storytellers can be hard to find. Always be on the lookout for the best ones within your organization. Here are some things to think about when choosing someone to be on camera:

  • Does their story help advance your video’s goals?
  • How do they do on camera? (Pull out your phone and ask them a few questions while recording them — this will tell you a lot!)
  • Do they have characteristics that your audience will find endearing?
  • Are they able to display emotion?

4. Introductory Cameras

Once you choose a story, you have to capture it. Being ready with the camera is more important than having the perfect camera. It doesn’t have to be a professional camera; it can be your mobile phone. When a moment comes that stirs your emotions, pull out your phone and capture it.

A phone with a good video camera can also work for your planned videos, but you’ll want to purchase a camera to do them with excellence. You may like to consider learning the world of shooting video with Digital Single-Lens Reflex (DSLR) cameras. A DSLR camera gives you a great, film-like image, can use different lenses, and doubles as a quality still photo camera. The Canon T4i is a solid choice for an entry-level DSLR camera. We would advise, however, doing a little research online on the pros and cons of shooting video with DSLR cameras before purchasing one.

5. Basic Composition/Lighting Skills

Applying elemental composition and lighting skills is as essential as a good camera. They can make your videos a lot more pleasant to watch.

6. Framing

Typically, an interview is more pleasing if the person is not centered perfectly in the frame. Try moving your interviewee slightly off-center and ensure that people always look into the frame rather than off it. For example, if someone is framed on the right side of the screen, have them look slightly to the left side of the screen. You can have a lot of fun with some interesting angles. Experiment to see what looks good!

Proper headroom will take a little practice. You want a little room above your subject’s head for a wider shot. It’s okay to cut the top of the head off for close-ups. To practice, imagine a tic-tac-toe board over your screen (some cameras allow you to turn this “frame guide” on). This refers to the “rule of thirds” (Google it).

7. Lighting

There are volumes of books written on the subject of lighting for video. For the sake of simplicity, focus on two things: softness and shaping.

While hard light has its place, soft light is the most flattering. Two ways to get soft lighting are to place someone next to a lamp with a large shade or to place someone next to a window with indirect sunlight.

Shaping can add a lot of interest to a person’s face. The key to shaping is not having the light source right before a person. Try putting it about 45 degrees off-axis from the center of the subject’s face.

I was sitting in a coffee shop while writing this article and noticed the pleasing effect the indirect sunlight was creating as it came through the window. Using an iPhone, I snapped a photo of my wife sitting beside the window with her face angled slightly toward the window. If we were shooting an interview here, I would be pretty happy with the result just from using natural light.

8. Put it all Together

After you import your footage, finding your content is your first job. Here are a few things to remember: lose anything that is not vital, stick with the story’s heart, but leave in emotional details.

Next, add a b-roll (that video footage showing what the interview is talking about). It covers your edit and can make the story more interesting. Adding music can bring out the emotion once you have your story and b-roll. Check out some online stock music sites like Music Bakery or Audio Jungle.

Our best advice for editing? Get feedback. Show your cuts to people who you know will be honest. Ask them if the story makes sense and if the content is compelling.

Do-it-yourself (DIY) videos are commonplace, especially in nonprofits and ministries. It’s an excellent opportunity to make a deeper connection with your audience.

Remember, the most important thing is always to be ready to capture moments when they come along. If you want to learn more about the world of DIY videos, there are many great resources online. Check out for some great tutorials.


Mike Sukraw is CEO/producer and Kristin Sukraw is president of Reliant Studios, a video production company based in Lincoln and Omaha, Nebraska, specializing in helping organizations achieve their goals through creative video communication. This is an excerpt from the 2014 Winter edition of Outcomes Magazine.


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Christian Leadership Alliance equips and unites leaders to transform the world for Christ. We are the leaders of Christ-centered organizations who are dedicated to faithful stewardship for greater kingdom impact.

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