3 Quick Tips for Lighting Your Next Video

Even the most interesting video will fall flat if the audience is distracted by bad lighting. Here are some quick tips.

Key Light

The main light source in your shot is called the key light, and in a basic shot this light provides most of the illumination. Unless the intent is to create a dramatic effect like strong shadows across the face or a silhouette, the key light is usually placed beside or slightly behind the camera.

Fill Light

With the key light providing most of the illumination on your subject, that strong light will almost always cast some shadows on the opposite side of the subject’s face and body. In order to reduce the depth of those shadows, another softer light is often placed to fill in the darker areas, giving it the name fill light. You don’t want to eliminate all the shadows—if the light is too even, with no contrast between highlights and shadows,  your subject will look flat on camera.

Rim Light

While the key light and the fill light are generally placed in front of the subject, the rim light sits behind the subject. The purpose of the rim light is provide some definition to the edges—the rim—of your subject, visually separating them from the background elements in your shot. (Picture the thinnest crescent moon—the sun is functioning as a rim light, helping the dark moon stand out from the black background of space.) Your rim light doesn’t have to be very dramatic—just enough to make the subject pop.

Go with your instincts

These are general principles, but you should always evaluate the shot as it looks to your eye, and more importantly, in your camera.

Two Things to Know Before Setting A Media Budget

Matt Jensen Marketing has clients across town, across the U.S., and even across the pond. Because we do, we’re often researching media costs for different markets. 

When marketers reference “media” they’re traditionally talking about a combination of tactics like billboards, radio spots, television commercials, and digital ads. There are increasingly more media options for advertising, but those are the main ones. 

While the costs from different markets vary widely, the same two questions kick off every media plan we pull together. The first question to ask is what does it cost to “play” in the market where your media will appear? 

This is a ballpark estimate that should be based on:

  • Reach – how many people will see or hear your message; 
  • Frequency – how often your message will be seen or heard; and
  • Placement – where it will appear (radio, television, billboards, or online). 

Knowing what it costs to get attention in your market is a big part of answering the second question: what is our company willing to spend on media advertising? When you’re new to media buying, the costs can seem unexpectedly high. Prices vary by tactic, time of day, demand, and frequency. In other words, the price of an ad at 7:30 a.m. can be higher than it is at 2:30 p.m. even though it runs on the same radio station. 

It’s also important to consider that the media ads you buy this month aren’t likely to yield noticeable results until 6-12 months later. You need to sustain your spend for several months so that it isn’t wasted. And, while it’s tempting to snag the most affordable placements and timing, you need to consider if those are actually reaching your target audience or not. 

Recent work with one of our clients demonstrates the importance of beginning with these two questions. As part of the company’s 2022 marketing mix, its leadership team was interested in billboard and radio ads. Our team pulled together a plan that included baseline pricing, scheduling, and placement in the specific suburbs they’d chosen. The company is in one of the most expensive markets in the U.S. – easily a $50,000 monthly spend to get any traction at all with their target audience. 

The client, however, only wanted to spend $15,000 per month, not nearly enough to get the exposure they want. It was an important discovery – one we’re glad to have made early – so that we could hone in on a more effective way to spend those dollars. In this case, it was choosing just one tactic and being very specific about where those ads were placed. The added benefit of this process is that, when they are ready to make a larger investment, they’ll be better informed thanks to MJM’s research. 

Looking to begin or refine your media buying? Get started by contacting the experts at Matt Jensen Marketing.

Best Dressed Images

The best images begin before you’re in front of the lens. Whether it’s photos or videos, here are the guidelines we give clients so they can prepare for “shoot day”:

  • Keep it simple. There’s a time for fun, bright patterns and those oversized earrings you just bought, but it’s best to stick to the basics when having your photo taken. This is especially true if you won’t be the only one in the shot. Another point in favor of simplicity: you won’t be distracted by a scarf that won’t sit just right or pleats that keep bunching up. Avoid clothing with screen printed sentiments.
  • Black and gray always win. Black and gray are the most flattering shades for most skin tones and both colors are easily coordinated with your background and other people. They also never go out of style and give photos — and you — a timeless look. Don’t love black and gray? We get it. Sometimes you need a pop of color. In this case, jewel tones are the way to go. Just make sure they don’t clash with your background, a loved one, or that company color palette.
  • Limit jewelry. Keep accessories to a minimum. They can detract from your face (your smile should be the focal point) and can catch light and shadows in an unflattering way. Like clothes, they can also slide out of place, and it may not be noticed until post-photoshoot editing. A sideways necklace can’t always be edited later.
  • Comfortable and close-toed. Your footwear may not even show in your photo; however, it still helps to wear shoes you’re comfortable in. We don’t always notice it, but our footwear can promote (or detract!) from good posture, stability, and our overall demeanor. Close-toed shoes are best when you’re being photographed in cool months and in a group.

Can you capture good video on a smartphone?

One thing that keeps a lot of people from creating video content is the perceived high barrier to entry. Specialized lights, sound equipment, a camera that costs more than your car—that shopping list is the tip of the iceberg, and then you still have to learn how to use all that gear.

The good news is that you probably have a pretty decent camera in your pocket, masquerading as a phone. While there is a level of production quality that’s unattainable without the professional-grade matériel and the expertise in its use, you can still create really compelling videos with just a little extra effort and planning. Here’s a good place to start:

Three low-tech tips for shooting video on an iPhone

  1. For the love, shoot your video horizontally. Unless you can see the future, and you know with 100% certainty that your video will only ever be used on a platform that rhymes with “sick clock”, shoot your video horizontally. Vertical video is great for text to friends and family, great for Tik Tok, sometimes ok for Instagram, but if you want to get the most use out of your video rotate that phone 90 degrees and shoot away. (Your editors will thank us.)
  2. Use a tripod (or jam your phone into a potato?) Hand-held video can be interesting and fun, but it’s hard to watch for very long. You can find really simple tripods on Amazon for under $15, and that small investment can make a big improvement in the quality of your shot.
  3. Face a window. It’s hard to beat natural light. If you don’t have access to natural light, make sure you’re shooting in a bright enough location that you’re subject is well-lit. Unless you’re going for a dramatic, “interrogation room” look, don’t sit directly under a light, because it will create harsh shadows on your face. A bonus tip—if you’re mixing natural light with artificial lights, pay close attention to the “temperature” of the color. Warmer lights will lend an orangish tint to your subjects when compared to the generally bluish light from natural light sources.

If you’re working with a video editor, make sure you check with them to find out what format they prefer. We’ve also created this downloadable checklist you can use to set up your smartphone to maximize the quality of the footage you capture.

You might need a chef

I’ve mentioned editors and editing a few times in these articles, and it’s worth adding a note on that topic. The video file you capture (as well as the audio and still images) can be just one ingredient in a final polished video project. A good editor, like an experienced chef, can take simple (even boring) ingredients and craft them into something truly remarkable. A lot of the magic in the movies or television we watch is created in the editing phase of a project. Sound effects and music can add life to a simple video, and inspired editing can make a project sing.

Is video worth the cost?

As a visual thinker and as a storyteller, it’s hard for me to imagine a more potent medium than video. Books (on real, honest-to-goodness paper) will always be my first love, but video allows you to join the power and immediacy of images with the drama of a story unfolding over time. Visual elements paired with music and spoken word create an almost instant connection with the audience, and all that in an incredibly short amount of time.

Video swallows the internet

YouTube launched in 2005, and by late 2020 boasted of nearly 2 billion users.1  Since it’s very first video in 2005 (did you know that elephants have “really, really, really long trunks”?), video content has exploded, with users uploading more than 500 hours of video content to the platform every minute.2 While YouTube was the first major video platform, a parade of other media platforms have added to the ruckus. Your social media channel of choice is tripping over itself to serve you video content of all types, and with good reason—Twitter claims that tweets with video garner ten times more engagements than tweets without video3, and other platforms report similar numbers.

Is video worth the cost?

Despite all its strengths, video still has one major disadvantage when compared with other types of content: it’s hard to do well. It’s easy to thumb out a tweet or blog post, and nearly as easy to snap a semi-interesting photo, but shooting and editing even simple video content can feel more daunting.

It’s true that a well-produced video project takes feeding-a-small-army amounts of logistical planning, a fair amount of specialized (read, “expensive”) equipment, and technical skill. But armed with nothing more than a smartphone and a little planning, you can still create compelling video content. Here are some basic tips to get you started.

Why Settle for Being Persuasive? Build Buy-In Instead.

Chances are, you’ve had to be persuasive before. It’s a natural part of collaboration, leadership, and just plain being on the team. Need to build a case for more marketing dollars? Need to appeal for another employee? Need to prove that one of your tactics isn’t working and present a better way? 

Then you’ll need to be persuasive. But why stop there? Seeking buy-in — the fancy term for getting people behind something new — accomplishes goals and institutes real change better than a sales pitch ever could. But what are the hidden keys to building this precious commodity? 

First, and most importantly, don’t confuse buy-in with selling. Yes, you’re making a pitch, but true buy-in invites participants to discuss and debate. That process, and it really is a process, moves your peers from bystanders to truly vested stakeholders. Real buy-in fosters  a mutual respect that goes beyond simple compliance. The best approach is to present your ideas as drafts — something open to change — instead of foregone conclusions. 

Along with that, you’ll have to recognize that this can be a long process. At MJM, we often present proposals first to one or two leaders, who will then invite more of their colleagues to hear the presentation a second time. We’ll answer questions over email and during meetings sometimes for weeks and even months before getting the green light to move forward with the proposed project. People need time to digest and synthesize information, and you’ll be well-served to be welcoming and responsive as they do that. Consider their questions and even their pushback as positive signs that they’ve taken your plans seriously.

Second, be clear and concise about the problem, how to solve it, and how to measure progress. This is vital for creating true alignment. While we may all speak the same language, we use and interpret it differently. Your peers and superiors hear your words and apply their own conclusions and connotations to them instinctually; their perception may be very different from what you intended. That means clarity is doubly important. Avoid esoteric or vague language when possible, and use concrete dates and metrics every time you can.

Finally, be prepared. Buy-in can’t be achieved without credibility, and credibility relies on preparation. Gathering relevant data, writing out basic next steps, and consulting others with more experience are just a few ways to position yourself as a knowledgeable guide and gain the buy-in you’re seeking. 

There’s no need to build buy-in alone! Contact the experts at MJM for help communicating your company’s next big change. 

Marketing is Your Last Step

It was my first day at a new job and I walked in, quite literally, to phones that were ringing off the hook. Curious, I approached the area where a pair of receptionists, who, as pleasant as could be, were fighting a losing game of whack-a-mole with the blinking red lights on their consoles. When I asked why today had such a high call volume, they told me “It’s always like this.”

If job security had a ringtone, I had a lot of it.

However, as awesome as that was, this company wasn’t ready to handle the results of their marketing. Their team had executed a focused strategy to get their name out and it worked.

Focus on Operations First

But little attention had been paid to the infrastructure and operations necessary to handle things like call volume or adequate parking. Even more broadly, no one had considered how mundane things like poorly-designed forms or long phone wait times can undo months — and in this case years — of strategic marketing. 

When your prospective customer finally picks up the phone or fills out the contact form on your website, you must be ready to follow through on your promises. Jimmy John’s couldn’t promise “Freaky Fast Delivery” without putting in place everything possible to guarantee that delivery is, in fact, freaky fast. 

Marketing Comes Last

In other words, what many people don’t realize is that operations is the first step to effective marketing. At MJM, we take that even further. To us, operations is marketing and well-designed operations lead to a stellar patient experience that, in turn, leads to word-of-mouth referrals. Only once those things are in place should full-scale marketing efforts be launched. 

That was a welcome mindset for the receptionists whack-a-moling their way through phone call after phone call. I paused the company’s marketing that very day so we could focus on operations for a time. When we restarted our marketing plan a few months later, the phones were still ringing with one notable exception: we’d gotten better at handling our call volume.

And just about everything else we did. 

What Designers Really Do and Why You Need One

I’m Joel Jochim, and I’m a designer. 

There. I said it. 

But before you assume that I only “make pretty things” for a living, let me explain what I really do. 

Before anything can be made attractive, a designer has to become a puzzle solver who takes the constraints, wants, and needs of clients and moves them from nebulous ideas to concrete deliverables such as brand identities, billboards, slide decks, websites, social media pages, the occasional boat wrap (!) and, of course, an array of printed materials. 

It’s rare for our clients to know exactly what they want at the beginning of a project so we bring shape to their thoughts. We work through scenarios and solutions — often for weeks and even months — and, only once all the obstacles have been overcome, do we package it all in an attractive way.

Designers — especially my colleagues at MJM — also tend to take criticism and feedback with grace. We know that the honest input of others is vital to getting a project over the finish line and without it we’re only as good as our own perspective. That’s not to say we’re pushovers; we’ll share our perspective as needed. We’re just more interested in everyone else’s thoughts.

Admittedly, everybody designs things in some capacity or another. Canva and the like have made it accessible and that’s a good thing — the more people who understand what it takes to pull together something simple like a Facebook post, the better. 

A full-time designer, however, has special skill sets that can span the multiple demands of a project. We never stop learning new technology and techniques for photography, illustration, animation, video, social media, and on the list goes.

Maybe most notably, we’ll hang in there until the very end. We may miss the mark at times, but we’ll always try again…and again until we get it right for our clients. Not only are we puzzle solvers, we’re addicted to progress, to the process of making something better than it was when we started, to seeing it evolve into something that delights our clients and drives home their message. 

Sound like something your business needs? Contact the experts at MJM!

Q&A: Giving Great Feedback on Creative Work

There’s a mock-up of an event invitation in your inbox.

Can you give feedback? your co-worker asked. 

You’d love to, but everyone knows that good feedback is more than chiming in with your two cents. It’s thoughtful and keeps both your organization and your audience in mind. Plus, your thoughts have to be communicated to the designer.

How do you accomplish all that without taking up your whole day?

The next time you’re asked to offer feedback, use these tips from MJM’s Abby Rogers. She’s worked on both sides of graphic design — first as a designer and now as an account executive —, making her the perfect teacher to help you evaluate mock-ups. She answers the questions we all ask when the invitation (or brochure or digital ad) lands in our inbox.  

What should we look for first?

A focal point and a hierarchy throughout. There has to be someplace for your eye to focus first and travel a logical path. Varying sizes and thicknesses also help give visual cues for where to start so you get the story in the right order. 

To test this, pay close attention to where your eye goes first, second, third. Something’s wrong if what you’re drawn to most is the disclaimer at the bottom.

Anything else?

Even when it seems obvious, there should always be a clear call to action. Tell readers what you want them to do next — call, sign-up, RSVP — and make sure you’ve given them the tools to do it. 

What shouldn’t be there?

Chaos. Thick headings, italics, bold, intricate graphic elements — it’s too much all at once. Good design should feature only a handful of elements. 

Large blocks of text also should be checked carefully. They aren’t likely to be read, and harsh as it may sound, can contain details that only matter to you and not to your reader. Trim whenever possible. 

How do you keep the end product in mind?

As much as possible, assess mock-ups in their final format. If it’s digital, view it on your phone and computer screen. If it’s paper, print it out, cut it to size, and fold it as needed. For print projects, consider if your audience will be impressed or annoyed by complicated folds or fasteners.

That’s not to say things can’t be fun and artistic, but make sure it carries the main message and is the best method for those who will receive it. 

Repetition can be a good thing. What’s worth repeating?

I’d say the benefits and the call to action. The rest can be on your landing page or in a brochure. 

What common mistakes do you see?

Typos! You can spend a ton of time on an awesome piece, but if there’s a typo, the only thing that’s remembered is what was wrong. You can’t proofread too much.

What’s one thing we need to be reminded of?

White space is your friend! It keeps your reader from getting overwhelmed. Leaving white space doesn’t mean you haven’t spent your money well. It means you’ve been considerate of your audience.

Anything else?

Two things. Look for brand consistency. It’s tempting to introduce new colors and images, but, even though you’re sometimes worn out on your palette, your audience doesn’t see it often enough to get tired of it. Your brand is like a capsule wardrobe; its pieces are designed to look nice together.

Second, your logo doesn’t always have to be the main, hero image. Sometimes you need another hook to peak a reader’s interest.

Know someone who will use these tips? Share this post!

Level Up Your Writing With Contrast

While there are many ways to communicate — speaking, dancing, singing, painting, and even non-verbal communication — writing remains the most elegant and valuable form for individuals to master. A well-written paragraph can sell your product, launch your brand, or galvanize your followers.

Powerful writing creates movement.

But what elevates writing from mediocre to good? One simple approach can help you write better regardless the medium. Social media, brochures, brand narratives, web copy — you’ll write with more power when you amplify contrast.

Classic literature uses contrast to great effect, creating power and momentum. Good versus evil. Angels versus demons. Weak versus strong. Our most famous stories, movies, comics, superheroes, and heroic rescues all use contrast to connect the reader with the story.

Businesses can also use contrast to connect audiences to their social media posts, brochures, websites, and anything else they write. Here are some examples:

Heroes versus Villains

In your business space, who is the hero and who is the villain? Don’t be afraid to employ contrast and paint a picture for your customers about good vs. evil. You can find villains all around your business: competitors, market forces, cultural frustrations, impossible challenges. Find the force that pushes against your company and create contrast with your product or service.

Future Glory versus Future Pain

Great business writing isn’t shy about painting a detailed picture of a glorious future that includes your product or service… and how dismal the future will be without it. A little drama makes the customer’s choice clear.

Pain Point versus Product Benefit

Whatever your business or service, you likely have created a list of customer pain points and product features and benefits. Don’t be afraid to bring these together! Find tension and contrast between these two lists and use it to strengthen the power of your message.

Now versus Later

There is power in immediacy, in acting now rather than later. Use your writing to amplify the value of acting now instead of putting off decisions about your product or service.

Take this lesson from generations of authors and use it to improve your business writing. The difference between good writing and mediocre writing is that good writing employs contrast. Mediocre writing is bland and boring.

So don’t be lukewarm! Be hot, or cold, or better yet, stage a battle between the frozen arctic wind and the sweltering tropical sunshine.

Need help with your communication? Contact the expert team at Matt Jensen Marketing!