Cameraphobia is a problem for a lot of people. It’s debilitating for even the most confident person. The worst part (to me at least) – after having interviewing hundreds of people, I’ve observed that some of the most well spoken people are the ones most afraid to be on camera.
The smarty-pants term for it is Scopophobia. It is the fear of being stared at or having attention drawn to yourself. It’s usually thought of in terms of stage fright, but is also triggered when the lights and camera are all up in yo face. To our brains, we see the camera lens as just another eye, albeit larger and not blinking. With that explanation, it’s easy to see how fear of the camera can be a common issue.
But fear no more! Here are some tips on how to break that fear and learn to be your normal, awesome self in front of the camera. Even if you are great in front of the camera maybe these tips will make you even better!
1. Get out of your head!!! (Sorry for yelling)
One of the hardest and most important rules is to just go with it and not Inception yourself.
So many times, when put on the spot, one’s mind becomes an echo chamber of phrases like “Don’t mess this up,” “Think of a good reply,” “Sound smart, ya big dummy.” All the while you should just be listening and thinking of what to say. The French call it ’stairway wit” and it can best be summed up with a quote from the creator of the term, Denis Diderot:
In the context of this article, the bottom of the stairs could mean the end of an interview or after the camera has been turned off.
Getting out of your head is hard. Even Buddhist monks train for years to have “no-thought”. What usually works for me is to think in the present and not worry about the future. Try to focus on each question individually and not think about the interview in general.
Personally I see this a lot. I almost consider it a perk of my job, really. Some of the stories I have heard when putting away equipment are mind-blowing. Its almost like a Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde change… well more like Dr. Foot-in-Mouth and Mr. Holy Cow-that-was-Brilliant! Sometimes I even started setting up again and asked the person repeat themselves, but on camera.
Remember, nobody will judge you as harshly as you judge yourself. So take it easy, and definitely tell that devil on your shoulder to shove off.
2. Slow down, Accept mistakes, and Retake
For every great speech there are hours of rehearsals, and the best part is that nobody has to see any of that! Same with video. If you mess up or want to do a second or third take just say so.
As an editor I love more footage to play with. Even if the beginning of your answer is stellar in the first take and you really nailed the closing in the 4th take I can always edit that together. Time isn’t linear when it comes to video editing. I would much rather do the work than not be able to use the take at all.
The best tip I can give is to be okay with silence and be aware that we can edit just about anything. Video is not public speaking, so feel free to take your time and tell the interviewer you will need a minute to think about the question. You can even ask for clarification and say you would like to answer the question a few different ways. I personally love the people I interview who take that extra second to think about a question. It gives me more edit room and usually brings out a much better answer. Taking your time and really feeling comfortable with messing up usually puts a halt to ‘umms’, ‘uhhs’ and run-on sentences, making you sound even better!
3. Stop hatin’ on yourself, G
Too many times I get excuses like “ I hate my own voice” or “ I am going to ruin your video” or “ I won’t be able to answer your questions.” Or in case of the ladies, “I look like a hot mess.” STOP THINKING LIKE THAT!!!! You are amazing!
Nobody wants to see a clean welder in his shop or a personal, heart felt call-to-action with a person in their Sunday best and wearing caked-on makeup. The wrinkles, the freckles, that natural beautiful skin is called ‘character.’ I don’t want to film an image of you – I want to film you!
With the anxiety of any situation comes a ‘fight-or-flight’ impulse, and since you usually can’t get angry at the filmmaker because you are being paid or volunteering, you are left with either cutting the filming short or speeding through the process, both of which are terrible ideas. Letting the fear of a bad video freak you out to the point where you don’t give the editor enough footage will in turn cause the video to be bad; It’s a self fulfilling prophesy.
As an interviewer, it’s very easy to notice the people who are anxious of being in front of the camera by how they speak. The two most common patterns I notice are either people answering my questions before I finish asking them or people not restating the question and answering in very, very short answers. I have plenty of tricks I use to warm people up to the camera, but sometimes people have grown to fear their own image so much that no form of relaxation will help them. It sucks because you are awesome! I promise!
My job – first and foremost – is to get the shot, and the sub-rule of getting that shot is making the person on camera look good. I will angle my shots to remove any double-chin; I will tell you if your tie isn’t straight or if you have something in your teeth; I will light you to remove any blemishes. Heck, I even have software that can soften the skin and remove wrinkles. I interviewed someone once who didn’t have bottom teeth and, guess what: I found a way to film them so that you never noticed. Any professional filmmaker will do this (especially me, ’cause I’m awesome).
So remember the simple rules: Get out of your head, Slow down, be okay with mistakes, and stop hatin’ on yourself! Although these rules are in the context of filming, they are rules for life. Being afraid of the camera is a symptom of something greater – fear of failure and fear of rejection. Getting over the fear of the camera might just start that snowball effect and change your entire outlook on life and yourself for the better.
Stay awesome folks! Have a great 2015!