Camcorder “commandments” for professional-looking videos

There’s no such thing as a bad shot--just one that isn’t close enough.

If you want to add a professional touch to your videos, try following these six basic “camcorder commandments.”

1. Use a tripod whenever possible. If you don’t have a tripod, brace yourself against a door frame, or set the camera on the ground or on a table or car hood. You and your audience will appreciate a rock-solid image.

2. Lay off the zoom. Use the zoom to set up shots, then roll tape. Zooming and panning, when over-used, are the most common cause of motion sickness among video viewers.

3. Compose shots. Try to “tell a story.” First, establish the scene. Then show the elements that make up the scene: objects, action, and reaction.

4. Use close-ups. They show what people want to see. It’s been said there’s no such thing as a bad shot—just one that isn’t close enough.

5. Lighting counts. Video tends to be flat by nature. Create depth by using backlight and sidelight to add shadows and highlights.

6. Remember the audio. Monitor audio with headphones. Use an external microphone when possible, placing it as close to the subject as possible.

7. Be aware of the TV's frame. Anything you want to display on TV needs to have an aspect ratio of 3 x 4. By being aware of the size of the frame, your images won't get chopped off when viewed on TV.