5 Quick Tips: How to Build Outstanding Video Backgrounds

Video remains one of the best ways to disseminate information/content out in the world. YouTube is still ranked in the top 3 most popular websites and video streaming from any device to another is only becoming easier as all of our devices are starting to connect. Video is definitely a part of our everyday life, helping us learn everything from high-tech strategies to beauty techniques. In fact, this morning I actually got ready watching a YouTube tutorial on how to do a certain hairstyle I was trying to accomplish. Video has remained one of the easiest forms of communication and it can work to your brand advantage if you execute it successfully.

But if you don’t, it could sink your brand or turn people off.

The below tips are for producing video content that you wish to represent you. This is not meant for that quick and dirty Periscope moment where you are showing people behind the scenes footage. My goal here is to give you some tips that will help you create something you are proud to show. Something that represents your brand before you even speak, so everything you do reflects a unified message.

[Tweet “What is the background in your video content saying about you?”]

When filming a video for your web site:

1. Don’t pick something boring for your background

This may seem like a stupid thing to say. But I just went on to a client’s professional site and they had a video of them against their blank yellow wall. This marketing professional is someone who is full of life, has excellent information to share, and works above and beyond on her personal brand. Then she filmed a welcome video for her site that looked like a prison picture. Do not do this. Scout your house or your office for the best background. Viewers may not realize a great background when they see it because it’s subtle and fits who you are, but they definitely notice a horrible background that is distracting and not in alignment with what you are trying to present.

So, PLEASE do not just film without considering your surroundings.

2. Do pick something that represents your brand

Two pieces of advice I have received in my training on set design that I will pass on to you. If it’s your personal space choose only items that you absolutely love and bring you great joy. Secondly, never have something on a set that doesn’t support the story you are trying to portray to an audience. So make each piece be a part of the conversation.

You can choose a plain color for your backdrop if:  you plan on using pop up text or images or if you plan on dropping an entirely different background in during post production.

No matter if it’s physical or a green-screened image, make sure what is behind you represents the look and feel you’re trying to convey.  How do you determine the look you want? Think of your brand and the voice your brand has.

  • Business? Books that are stacked or placed that have been your go-to recommendations to drive your success, plants, an inspired statements in a small frame, artwork that you love, your logo strategically placed, calming colors, energizing colors, think of your tag line and what symbols you can get out of that.
  • High Tech? Cool (meaning in the blue tones not like cool as in hip) lighting, edgy pieces, something quirky or dramatic that represents your personality, interesting sculptures, the golden gate or bay bridge to represent the silicon valley, if your an apple fan a white apple, maybe a nod to the Big Bang Theory, a rocket model ship anything that represents fast, smart, cutting edge.
  • Artistic? What type of artist are you? Makeup? Photographer? Musician? Look at things that represent you without being cliche. A big music note for a musician is cliche but a few framed pieces from your collection of vintage vinyl records or a framed piece of sheet music art that inspires you or  a quote from your lyrics painted on to a piece of wood. Or perhaps a 3D model of your last album or bobble heads of your group. A vintage instrument case. If your music is calming, go with pieces that represent that: greenery, water features, soft colors. There are always color sets that represent moods that you want to use.

You get the idea. Select every piece to build a backdrop that represents you or the feeling you are trying to give your viewers. Think about color, form, imagery, interests. You do not need a ton of items. Just choose wisely and make each piece speak to who you are.

3. Lighting is key

Yes if you are doing multiple videos AND you will be filming on a regular basis then you need to invest in light boxes, or a beauty light ring for make-up videos.

Lighting is your friend and you can create all different effects with it. For this article, let’s say it’s for your business and you are doing some sort of a tutorial. You want to put the lighting at your head height directly lighting your face or you can put two lights on either side of your face for equal coverage.

Do not put the lights above you as that will cast shadows on your eyes and make you look like Frankenstein with dark eye sockets.

Do not put lights below you unless you are trying to recreate your spooky Halloween days when you were a kid holding a flashlight under your chin. It’s OK you can take a moment to find a flashlight and recreate that now. Go for it… I’ll wait;)

When you tape. make sure that if you have a window in your space, you are far from it or facing the window for natural light.  Natural light is ideal for a quick video. But if the video is going to be longer than 20 minutes, that natural lighting will consistently change during the shoot.

The window shouldn’t be behind you as it will highlight all of your wild hairs and also pull camera focus so you are dark and the background is lit.  This will create a silhouette of you.

Your best option is to place two lights, one on your right and left at the height you are sitting. You can also do a top light to highlight your hair (if you’re having a great hair day) but that would mean three lights.  You would not place a top light unless you have two fill lights on your right and left side of your face.

You want direct light that is diffused through a light box or umbrellas.

Here are two fairly reasonable sets on amazon.

 Light box

 Lighting with color filters which is great!


If you are planning on filming outdoors, film in the morning or late afternoon so the sun cooperates with lighting you. (See above for reason on why not at high noon).

If you are filming outside, select a background that goes with what you are talking about or a space that represents who you are or creates a feeling that you are trying to convey. Hey, you want to do a video about how you can work from anywhere on a roller coaster? Great! Love it. Though you may need to do a voice over if you don’t intend on investing in sound equipment, too.

Do a site visit before you film. Is it too noisy? Is there solid ground to set up my camera tripod? If I run out of batteries, is there an outlet close by or do I need to bring extra batteries? Will I need additional lighting? Do I need to get permission to film here? Will there be people coming in and out of my shot during the time I want to shoot? Check the weather, including the wind as that will affect the sound quality.

5. Test long before your deadline

Take screenshots of yourself before the video taping and make sure that everything looks good. Does your lighting need to be adjusted? Do you need makeup? (Even guys wear translucent powder and a bit of cherry chap-stick as lights wash your color out.) Do you need to adjust anything in your background so you don’t look like you have something resting on your head?

At this point it is helpful to have a friend close by who can adjust while you sit and review.

After you have adjusted everything, put an X on the ground to mark where you need to stand or sit so it will be consistent every time. You want to test everything out well in advance. It takes time to edit so on your first video give yourself a month to shoot, adjust, edit, add in your bookend (intro and closing credits if needed) and to post.

Here is a mini test (expand the pics for the full image):

  1. Which of these makeup tutorial backgrounds look professional?

2.  Which of these marketing specialists would you listen to about design just based on background?:

It’s all subjective but here are my thoughts on them:

Question 1. C is a professional makeup artist she has a well lit background, she has strategically placed pieces that represent her including her initials, and it isn’t distracting but is a supportive set.

Question 2. A has the background that makes me feel she has an attention to detail, that she took the time to consider the brand she is putting out and that’s what I want to see in someone giving me strategic advice.

So to recap: Don’t be boring 😉 Select items that represent you. Put yourself in the best light. If your outdoors, choose your space wisely. Take practice shots and adjust as you see fit. I know you have incredible content to give the world, so move forward with confidence that you are putting your best background forward.

[Tweet “Put your best background forward. “]

Good luck and post your before and after videos for us to see!!!

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