10 Tips To Help You Keep Your Head While Vlogging

Welcome to Techie Tuesday here at More Cowbell! This is the day each week when I unleash my inner geek and we talk about some groovy piece of technology or a technical point of writing.

As many of you know, I did my first video blog (vlog) last week and it was, um… less than polished. (Read: hilarious, and a bit of a disaster.)

Was it fun? Oh, yeah.

Was it anything I’d want to advertise beyond my circle of peeps? Not so much. I mean, hello? I had no forehead for most of the video!

An example of the BEFORE and AFTER:



Me with NO Forehead

Here’s 10 tips that would have helped things go smoother.


That’s geek-speak for “Read the freaking manual!” Had we bothered to read the instructions for our video camera, we would have known that the power plug was vital and guarded its location better.

Since we’ve only used the battery pack (and charged that), we didn’t realize we needed a separate power cable when we upload video. Oops!

I highly recommend you check all parts AND THE MANUAL of whatever equipment you use before you start. It will save you the hassle of doing what I did at the beginning of April: recording all your footage and then realizing it’s trapped in the camera.

Better yet…

2. Use a Mac

Renée Schuls-Jacobson, one of my favorite members of the More Cowbell Posse, made the observation that all this video business was easier on a Mac.

Her comment:

Hahahaha! I just made my son’s bar mitzvah video/photo montage. I also did the 5th grade graduation video (150 kids in 10 minutes with live clips). It’s fun. BUT you have to pick the right theme, Mrs. No-Head. ;-)

You are so cute! It was just fun to hear your voice. Nice job for a first effort. Oh, and I assume making vlogs is much easier on a Mac. One cable. Hahaha! 

Renée rocks the videos – here’s a post on her fabulous blog “Lessons from Teachers and Twits” where you see her dancing in a series of extremely cute hats. 🙂

3. Use a Tripod

Rachel Funk Heller, another pal of mine, used to work at CNN and she almost had a hissy fit on Facebook when she saw my video.

Her (very valid) comment was, “OMG, I worked in the news for 20+ years…why didn’t you ask me?? I’d have told you to use a tripod so you could aim the camera where you wanted it.”

Yep, that tripod would’ve been a GREAT plan. I’m gonna get me one of those before I make Cowbell Camera, Volume 2.(We’re gonna get all fancy…)

Rachel also pointed out…

4. Lighting Helps!

Yeah, we were a bit dark when we were using the Android in the living room to get Hubby on the vlog. But dang did he look cute in all that soft romantic lighting!

5. Scripting

You might want to plan out what you’re going to say in advance. The way it worked for me was a bit chaotic.

  • As mentioned above, I’d already shot the footage and was waiting for Hubby to find the cable in the Man Cave.
  • “V” day was fast approaching in the A-Z Blogging Challenge and I got a wild hair up my you-know-what to have “V” stand for vlogging.
  • I shot the workspace and garden footage at 6 am before I got ready for work.
  • At 9:30 pm, when I got home from work, we practiced in every room of the house and pretty much did the entire shoot by the seat of our pants.

Now do you see why the lack of forehead wasn’t super  surprising? The cleavage  was the biggest surprise *if you know what I mean*.

6. Understand your themes

Most video programs have themes that you can apply with cute frames around your face, or snowflakes or bubbles that float across the screen. You want to do a preview of how things will look when they’re finished BEFORE you upload to YouTube.

I’ll make a confession. I totally previewed, but since I’d just watched the video before applying the theme (and it looked great), I figured the preview was lying. Don’t do that.

To summarize: However the preview looks is how the video will look when you post to YouTube. 

7. Stick to what you know

Right at “showtime” is NOT the time to learn new software.

Less is more. If you have to upload a phone video straight to YouTube or record it directly into your laptop’s video camera, do that. YouTube has some snazzy things you can add to a video like annotations (they’re basically notes to your viewer).

8. Stupeflix has a mean right hook

When I set up my YouTube account, I was issued a single credit for a program called Stupeflix.  As I said in #7 – half an hour before you want to post your blog is not the time to be trying to figure out a video program.

Last week, I was calling it “Stupid Flicks” but really, it’s not that bad. However, you need to know the following:

  • If you lock the video, you can’t get back into it. (You’ve already used your credit to make  the video.)
  • Stupeflix costs to use (personal plans range from $5-8/month). I’d think this cost might be worth it if you plan to make a lot of videos, particularly on a PC where all the bells and whistles aren’t built in.
  • As I said above, whatever you see in the Preview is the “real deal.” Had I believed, I coulda had a forehead!


9. Know your space limitations in advance.

I had to post my garden video separately because there were space limitations I was unaware of in advance. (See how we come back to the “prior planning” thing??) I was only able to include ONE out-take, and I had to post my garden blog separately, because I just ran out of space.

Last, but not least, as I inserted photos I noticed they took up tons of space so it would have been smart to convert the photos to smaller files first too.

10. Drink a happy beverage first.

Whether that’s coffee, tea, or some sort of alcoholic beverage, is entirely up to you but you will  be nervous the first few times you do this. Breathe and smile. People come to your blog because they like to visit with you, not because they’re going to make merciless fun of your vlogging attempts. (OK, some  of them will.)

All these little tricks will make your video experience pretty painless, I promise. As my ROW80 pal, Ryan King, said in the comments, “Practice makes Perfect Cowbell!” I don’t know that I can really top that advice. 🙂

Have you done any videos yet for your blog? What tips did you learn? What are your biggest fears when it comes to doing a vlog? Enquiring minds LOVE to know these things here at More Cowbell!


I’ve had several of you ask me about online conferences in the past, and I finally found one! The 4th annual Self-Publishers Online Conference will be held May 8-10. I believe early bird pricing is over, but everything is cheaper than flying, right?

About Jenny Hansen

Avid seeker of "more"...More words, more creativity, More Cowbell! An extrovert who's terribly fond of silliness. Founding blogger at Writers In The Storm (http://writersinthestormblog.com). Write on!
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39 Responses to 10 Tips To Help You Keep Your Head While Vlogging

  1. LauraDrake says:

    Come on, Jenny, you KNOW us — you KNOW we made merciless fun of you!
    Not really – I’m in awe of your guts (and your cleavage!)

    But I’m still not doing this. Ever.
    Nu uh. No way. You can’t make me.

    If words go away, and this is the only medium left, I’ll fade to obscurity, happily.
    You have my respect, Girl!


    • Jenny Hansen says:

      LOL. Yes, but your merciless fun was completely hilarious (as were the tweets). I was just a bit mortified that I was sporting va-va-voom cleavage at work!

      p.s. This is me you’re talking to. Don’t throw down a challenge like that…now I’m honor bound to get you into a vlog. 🙂


  2. Love love love the tips and tricks and I’ll definitely make great use of them when the time for my first Vlog comes – which i hope to be soon enough! LOL! I am with Ryan – practice makes perfect so here’s to your NEXT Vlog fabulousness!! Squeee!!!


  3. Ryan King says:

    Aww. I got an honorable mention 🙂 I bet your next vblog will improve by leaps and bounds. Trial and Error is 100% human Jenny and you learned a lot from that last one! I’ve made videos before and even compiled a couple of vblog entries for a friend (of her for her). But my own vblog? *nervous laugh* I don’t think so. I still can’t believe people want to read what I say, much less what I write. vblogs I’m sure would be even worse. Besides I don’t want people to scream “Zoinks!”, have their hair stand straight up and see them running away like I’m a monster from a Scooby-Doo episode. The internet is a safer place without me doing one. 🙂


    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Of course you got an honorable mention! I learned tons and I can guarantee to add the forehead and take away some cleavage in the next video attempt.

      I think you’d love the video, once you got over the fear of people yelling “Zoinks!”


  4. John Holton says:

    You don’t sound like I thought you would. This was hilarious! I love the parts about trying to use hardware and software BEFORE you try using them, because, believe me, I’ve run afoul of those many, many times.

    Oh, incidentally, I used the expression RTFM in a class one time with my boss sitting in the back of the room. She almost had a stroke until I translated it as “Read The Friendly Manual!”


    • Jenny Hansen says:

      So, you know that I cleaned up the RTFM as well! That’s hilarious, John. I find it hilarious that NO ONE said I sounded like they thought I would. I’m dying to know what y’all thought I’d sound like. And yeah, it’s always the tech people who jack up the tech stuff the first time (which brings us back to RTFM).


  5. Love the tips…but I’m still terrified of vlogging. Right now my digital camera is my video camera as well, and no tripod, so that alone might be a good sign that I should wait 🙂


    • Jenny Hansen says:

      I’ve see you on camera and you are seriously adorable. In my wildest dreams, I could not be half that sweet-looking. That’s a talent that needs to be exploited on video!!


  6. If I ever, and that is a huge IF, decide to do a vLog I’ll come back and reread your tips. Remember, we’re dinosaurs and don’t own a video camera or a web-cam, LOL.


  7. Jim Hansen says:

    Nice forehead


  8. I am certain vLogging is much easier on a Mac. Without a doubt. But remember, I have a 12-year-old son I call Tech Support. He has made me what I am today. Thanks for the link to my dancing video. That one was fun. If you want to hear my voice, you might enjoy this one. It was my first speaking vLog. It will make you feel better. 😉


  9. K.B. Owen says:

    Great tips, Jenny! I have a PC, and an old camcorder or camera that takes up to 15 min clips to choose from. I DO have a table-top tripod, though 🙂

    Maybe I’ll get up the nerve to make a video one of these days, LOL!


  10. Julie Glover says:

    I LOVE that you are willing to put yourself out there, give it a shot, and then let us in on the behind-the-scenes stuff. Sharing what you’ve learned and are learning is a great way for the rest of us to figure this stuff out too. (Perhaps I should share that authenticity is also way up on the list of characteristics I relish in friends, right there with sense of humor and a willingness to karaoke with me. 🙂 ) Thanks for the tips. I will be looking back at this post when I’m ready to do my “thang” on my site.


    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Right back atcha, Julie (except for the willingness to karaoke). I’ll do it when there’s alcohol involved, as long as I’m only the back-up singer. You are welcome for the tips and I can’t wait to see your vlogs!!


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  12. Karen McFarland says:

    I just think that after your experience, I’m sticking with writing a blog thank you very much. I hate pictures let alone a vlog. And besides, I don’t think I have the required amount of cleavage to make a vlog. LOL! 🙂


  13. Hi Jenny, sorry I’m so late to the party and do excuse my hissy-fit, but I’m glad you took the advice to heart. I think what’s so funny is that people are so used to just clicking on a clip or turning on the T.V. and there’s stuff to watch — it’s so easy. But when it comes time to start producing video, it’s you begin to see how much time and effort and energy goes into it. Great tips, I look forward to your next master work.


    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Rachel, one of my dearest friends went to the University of Missouri ~ Columbia (and so did I). You know what that means…J-school. I was part of more news features than probably any other non-journalism major on campus. I get it.

      BTW, I loved your hissy fit and I don’t blame you. But we did get the now-famous “forehead-less” video out of it, so it wasn’t a total loss. 🙂


  14. tomwisk says:

    The Vlogs were just the beginning. All the gurus tell us we’ve got to get ourselves out there. You did and I admire your guts. I’ve seen myself on video. I come across as a squeaky used car salesman. No wardrobe, makeup or camera angle can help me. I’ll stick with words and leave the videosphere to the photogenic, like you and those who appeared on today’s blog.


    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Boy, in reading this, I thought: “Branding sounds a lot like dating!” And I agree, it’s a pain to think about. So, I don’t think about it like branding – I’m just hanging out here with all of you. 🙂


  15. Drink a happy beverage first! haha! Love it.

    Yes, Macs rule for that kind of thing. Can’t believe I missed your first vlog! I’ve been buried in paper over here. Lots going on 😉 I’ll go see it now!


  16. jillrkemerer says:

    Yay!! You’re vlogging!! Who needs a forehead anyhow? It just shows all my wrinkles!

    I make my vlogs with Windows Movie Maker. I just use the videocam. It’s easy, but not the greatest quality of picture, which I’m perfectly okay with. One thing I tell myself is that I’m not a movie star. I’m just a writer having some fun on my blog. 🙂


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  18. Reetta Raitanen says:

    Thank you so much for these useful tips, Jenny. So are you using Mac to edit the videos? I’m using PC and the thought of editing videos scares me. But luckily I have a friend who has shot short videos and can help me out. I’ll need a lot of happy drinks first, though 😛


  19. lynnkelleyauthor says:

    I learned the hard way, too. It’s much easier using the Mac instead of having my hubby use our digital camera. He was a bit too far away and the sound isn’t good in my Hair Daze (Research) video, which I didn’t have a script for and repeated myself a few times, misspoke, and paused too often, so it turned out to be over 3 min. That’s way too long. But we learn from our mistakes, don’t we?
    Here’s the link if you want to watch it. I still had fun! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iQS2bjWK6z0&NR=1
    Here’s another one that I used my Mac camera and could see what I was doing. It turned out much better. A silly vlog about cliche characters. I could only do this stuff at home, not in front of an audience! LOL! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IxUBC1fJ-Y0&feature=relmfu

    I love how you put all these tips together because I never could have walked through it step by step and written a post on it! Great humor. Nice going, Jenny.


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  22. Hey Jenny!

    I know I’m light-years beyond late in commenting, but I saved this post for when I’d have free time. LOL I appreciate your tips, and will use them (especially RTFM) in preparation for my getaway to Key West later this month. My virgin vlog HAS to be about the Conch Republic, right? I hope I don’t embarrass myself, but if I do, I’ll try to take a positive spin on it like you did yours. 😉 Happy vlogging!


  23. nolabels says:

    Thanks so much for this. I’ve been thinking about vlogging for a while, but haven’t quite decided how to go about it. This will give me some much needed encouragement.


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