Nonprofit Marketers: 3 low budget ways to improve your marketing videos.

As a nonprofit marketer, you know video marketing is an important tool that can be used to tell your organization’s story. Unfortunately, many nonprofits have to work with limited resources, casting the belief that video marketing is out of reach for some. This is either because hiring professional video creators is too expensive or because your organization lacks the budget to afford the proper gear.

Producing videos doesn’t have to break the bank. It’s not the size of the budget or type of equipment that matters. Your organization can start producing professional-looking videos today using technology and equipment you already have available to you. 

This article covers three ways that you can produce these videos in-house at little to no cost.

Improve Your Audio Quality

Audio is often one of the most overlooked parts of video production. Disregarding audio quality can have an enormous impact on the effectiveness of your organization’s video marketing efforts. Many people will forgive imperfect video, but few will forgive terrible audio leading them to click away from your videos. 

There are two low/no budget ways to improve this part of your production. 

Use a Mic

The surest way to improve the audio in your videos is to get a mic. The microphones that are built into cameras typically are not designed to record quality audio. 

Consider a low-cost lavalier mic or an on-camera mic that will plug into your camera. These can range from as low as $20 to up to $60. Compared to more professional production mics on the market that can cost well over $100, they do a pretty good job.

There are even many low-cost lavalier mics that can plug into smartphones, giving you the means to produce high-quality videos in your pocket.

 

mics
Lavalier (Left) and On Camera (Right) Microphones

 

Move to a better location

If you don’t have the money to get a mic for your camera, move your subject to a location that will allow you to record audio that is noise and echo-free.

To avoid echo while shooting inside, move to rooms with lots of soft surfaces. This includes rooms with carpeted floors, large curtains, lots of objects on the walls and acoustic panels on the ceiling. Try to keep your subject away from the walls if you can because the wall will reflect audio from your subject creating echo. One tip is to shoot in a library because the books on the shelf are great at absorbing sound. 

If shooting outside, stay out of the wind and away from traffic. Using objects like buildings to shield you from the wind can help, but also be aware that the hard surfaces on buildings can create echo if you shoot too close to them. 

 

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The subject is surrounded by soft surfaces like a cubicle wall and couch, which can help absorb the echo.

 

Improve the Lighting

How you light your subject can instantly improve the look of your videos. While it would be nice to have professional lighting equipment to help, that’s not always an option. A lot can be accomplished with very little.

There are three things to consider to achieve an ideal look. 

Light Source

Are you using a video light, the sun, the lights in your office? Knowing where your light is coming from is the first important thing to consider.

When choosing where to place your subject before recording, avoid light that is directly overhead or behind the subject. It’s best to choose a light that is in front of the subject to avoid ugly shadows on the face and ensure they are properly exposed. 

A light that is overhead can create dark circles around the eyes and a bright light behind the subject can cause them to become a silhouette.  

Use Soft Light

The most flattering light that you can use for a subject is soft, diffused light. This is the type of light photographers typically use for fashion photography. They prefer this type of light because It doesn’t create hard shadows on the face.

There are a number of ways to find or create soft light. 

 

soft light
Overcast (left) and Shadow (Right) Lighting

 

If you’re outside, shoot when the sky is overcast or move to a location in the shadows just outside of direct sunlight. If you’re inside, shoot in a well-lit room, or near a window that does not have direct sunlight. 

If there’s no soft light already around you, create the desired look by either using white poster boards to bounce light onto your subject or use cheap light diffusion like a frosted shower curtain or cooking wax paper in front of your light source. Be careful though, if the light you are using has a tendency to get hot, putting the diffusion too close to the light could cause a fire.

Use Similar Lights

A common mistake made in low budget video production is to unintentionally mix lights that have different colors. All light has color. Many times our eyes don’t recognize the difference between light sources because our brain compensates for the change. In reality, sunlight is actually a blue light, most lamps are orange, and fluorescent lights typically give off a green light. 

The best way to avoid mixing lights in an unflattering way is to try to use similar light sources while shooting. For example, If your main light is sunlight coming through a window, turn off other lights in the room.

Adjust the Camera Settings

Lastly, the cheapest and easiest way to make your low budget video production look more professional is to get camera settings right. Rather than setting everything to auto, take the time to get to know your camera and what each setting will do. 

There are three things that you should really become acquainted with on your camera. 

White Balance

Does your video image appear orange, blue or green? There’s a high probability the white balance on your camera is set to the wrong setting.  There’s nothing more unflattering than seeing a subject on camera that appears to to be a sickly pale blue or to have contracted jaundice. Always take the time to set this to the correct setting before shooting. 

 

white balance example
The left and center photos are set to the incorrect white balance setting, while the photo on the right is set to the correct setting.

 

Exposure Settings

If your image appears too bright or too dark, make adjustments to your f-stop or ISO. Avoid using the shutter speed to make adjustments to the exposure as this can affect the perceived movement of a subject by either adding motion blur or making the image appear choppy. Ideally, a video should be recorded at 1/60 shutter speed if you record at 24 or 30 frames. 

The f-stop is the iris within the lens that controls how much light enters the lens. The lower the number, the more light it lets in. The higher it is, the less light it lets in. One thing to take into consideration is that if you use a low f-stop, it becomes harder to maintain focus. This is especially true if you are shooting someone that likes to move around a lot. 

The ISO deals with the sensitivity of the sensor. The higher the number, the more sensitive it is to light. However, as you raise the ISO, you’ll also introduce more grain to the image. It’s usually a good habit to avoid going above an ISO of 400 unless of course, you are using a camera that operates well in low light like one of Sony’s A7 series cameras for example.

Audio Levels

Many cameras have the ability to control the audio recording levels manually. Before you record someone, check to make sure that the recording audio volume is high enough to hear them but not so high that their voice will distort. 

Ask your subject to talk with a regular and loud voice before recording to help you gauge what you should set as the appropriate recording volume. While their speaking volume will fluctuate, it should typically fall between -12db and -3db.

Video production is a tool, and a tool should never get in the way of telling your organization’s story, it should compliment it. Taking these 3 things into consideration can make your nonprofit’s storytelling more powerful. 

If you have any questions about this article feel free to leave a comment below. 

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