For an effective makeup tutorial, solid techniques for scripting, setting, lighting and shooting are just as important as cleaning eyeshadow brushes. Here’s a few tips on making the production value of cosmetics videos as shiny as Becca highlighter.
Anyone who’s dabbled in makeup knows the frustration of creating a cute look that seems nice under bathroom lights, but melts under natural light, fluorescent lights or just a camera flash. Recording and uploading that look for a digital audience requires even more effort, but by focusing on good scripting, tasteful settings, skilled lighting and artistic shooting, the production value of your videos will be as flawless as three concealers and a setting spray.
While many tutorials may seem spur-of-the-moment, scripting is actually an important part of cosmetics videos. Each video begins with some sort of concept, and it never hurts to practice the makeup look before setting up the camera — preferably in whatever lighting you plan to use for the video. There are even apps like YouCam or Sephora Virtual Artist, where people can test out hypothetical looks on themselves without busting out a single sponge.
This ties in with researching what you say in your videos! Way too many bloggers claim that their new fave product is “chemical-free” and thus in line with their organic vibes — except everything is a chemical. Water is a chemical. Whatever tropical-fruit-flavored detox tea the vlogger is currently suckling from a DIY mason jar mug has chemicals in it. And the toner/primer/holy grail dual-phase floral essence that they’re hawking is probably packed with alcohol anyway!
Scripting cuts down on shoot time because you spend less time wondering what you’ll do and say next. A script also makes it easier to add closed captioning to your videos once they’re uploaded so they can be more accessible and reach a larger audience. For a product-centered video, like a haul or first-impressions chat, try making a list of each thing with a short description next to it to start off. Tutorials are also much easier when the steps are written out beforehand. For more spontaneous videos, even just a quick outline will help organize your thoughts.
Most people typically shoot their videos in the same spot, building continuity. The most common backgrounds are either a large sheet of fabric or green screen, or a vanity with assorted pretty accoutrements. It’s really up to you how clean or cluttered you want the background to be.
Clean backgrounds bring the viewer’s focus to whatever you’re talking about, while cluttered backgrounds can show a bit of your personality or add to the content. Still, it’s best to have some sort of organization — even with a desk full of perfume — for a more professional atmosphere. Make sure you have enough space around you for the demonstration without tripping over anything, like a camera charger or empty Ulta box. To keep the camera from being reflected, most people use a smaller compact to apply makeup while filming.
Since the blogger is in the foreground, clothing is also integral to visual quality. There’s the matter of personal taste and making sure the outfit and makeup complement each other without either blending into the background, but it’s also best to avoid flashy patterns like plaid or chevron, because the horizontal scan lines of pixels on computer monitors have trouble displaying the vertical lines of the fabric. This can create a moiré effect, causing the blogger to practically vibrate across the screen, which is not the best aesthetic choice for a summer glam look.
Lighting is perhaps the most significant component of cosmetics videos for an accurate portrayal of the product colors. And, you know, for making ourselves look good. Diffused light is key, and it’s best to have equipment that bounces the light particles around rather than a glaring focused beam. I explain how to light videos with a traditional lighting kit in an old, poorly-lit video here, but the most common tools for cosmetics videos are soft boxes and ring lights.
A soft box is basically a normal lighting fixture with a box around it, consisting of reflective inner sides and diffusing material at the front. The reflective sides bounce the light around within the box, and the front filters the particles for that nice glow. This effect can also be achieved by using a normal light kit and a bounce board — or just a big piece of white cardboard — and angling the kit and board so your face gets the full luminance.
The ring light is the most popular setup for cosmetics videos; as Stephanie Musick from the DVe store explained it, the ring of light “washes out any blemishes” because of its simple, effective structure. It’s basically an illuminated doughnut with a stand in the center for a camera or phone to capture the “soft glow” that the tool provides.
Natural light is any light from the sun! Golden hour occurs around sunrise and sunset, causing filmmakers to keep even odder hours than the average creative type, but diffused sunlight from 10 am to 4 pm is also pretty. Position the camera in front of a large window, then work quickly to capture the best light before it fades. This is where a streamlined script is handy.
If you look closely into the eyes of your favorite beauty vloggers, you can probably pick out what kind of lighting they use. This is the key light, and its purpose is to highlight the subject of the video. Soft boxes appear as many small squares, natural light is usually one blurry rectangle, and ring lights are a perfect halo in the pupil.
Color temperature is also a principal component of lighting for accurate swatches. To achieve a neutral atmosphere, make sure to white-balance your camera before filming. This means holding a white paper — or maybe a super matte white eyeshadow — in front of the lens so the camera resets and displays the rest of the spectrum correctly.
After the well-primed base of scripting, setting and lighting, you can now start shooting. Make sure the camera, if not on a tripod, is on a steady surface at an even angle, so the focus is on you rather than a wobbly frame. Vloggers typically shoot from the top of chest to the top of head while utilizing the rule of thirds. This concept can be visualized by imagining straight lines going vertically and horizontally across the screen to divide it into three even sections. The eye naturally goes towards the intersection of those lines, so you’ll want to center yourself on those points to capitalize on that effect.
Make sure you’re staying in frame through the camera’s flip-around viewfinder, an external camera monitor or place-marking. As opposed to tech tools, place-marking is where you just mark out the physical frame of the shot, like knowing that if you move past your desk too far to the right, you’ll be out of frame.
Most video cameras used by vloggers have automatic exposure and focus settings, but it’s still good to know what these controls are and how to use them. Exposure is the amount of light that comes to the sensor, determined by aperture, ISO and shutter speed.
If the setting is too bright or dark, it could change the exposure level and produce inaccurate colors.
Focus refers to how clearly defined the subject is. Bringing things to and from the camera could blur the focus, so watch out for that during close-ups of products. Remember to readjust the lens if the camera is using manual focus, or allow buffer time if the camera is set to automatic focus.
Everything mentioned here, from the first words of a concept to the final cut, can be personalized to give your videos individuality. Anyone can become a skilled vlogger with practice, even without high video quality, but the most important thing is that you have fun producing your content. With those tips in mind, blend away!
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