How to Choose Your Video Background for Your Online Videos

Your Video Background…
So what does it say about you?

How to Choose Your Online Video Background for Your Video Presentations 3

Location, location, location

A great way to communicate important messages to your target audience is the tried and true “talking head” video – where you speak directly to a camera.  Simple and versatile – you can be humorous or serious, informative or promotional.

Make or Break! 

However, there are  several elements that will make or break a talking head video.

In my last article, I wrote about 3 Ways to Achieve Great Results using Affordable Equipment. In this article I will talk about choosing the right location to set up your equipment. This should not be taken lightly or treated as an afterthought.

A poor background choice will detract from you and your key messages. I see this a lot with online videos (especially with home-office based businesses). Laundry and clothes piles, cluttered  bookshelves, paper stacks, messy rooms, dirty looking walls, crammed office space or worse a grim looking basement!

How focused is the video presenters message likely to be when their video set-up or chosen filming location is in such a poor state? Also, does it entice you as a viewer to want to watch and listen to their message? Does their setting make them look credible? Do they really look like they have it going on? Hummm…

With just a glance, people have judged your social and economic level, your level of education, and your level of success. Within minutes, they’ve decided your level of intelligence, trustworthiness, competence, friendliness, and confidence.”

1st Impressions are Crucial

Influence and persuasion expert Olivia Cabane, states that: “You only get one chance to create a good first impression. Within a few seconds, with just a glance, people have judged your social and economic level, your level of education, and even your level of success. Within minutes, they’ve also decided your level of intelligence, trustworthiness, competence, friendliness, and confidence.”

Yikes! And that’s based on meeting you in the flesh. Imagine how that translates to your online videos, where viewers can replay and pause your presentation!

My recommendation would be to always present your best self on camera. Also, think about how you can create unified visual appearance for your video presentations that helps your audience identify with you and your brand. This can be done with the consistent use of background settings, props or objects, music, audio, wardrobe, make-up, hair, set design, color, lighting, editing, graphics/text and overall styling to establish a unified visual look and feel.

Pre-Production Planning

In “movie speak” everything done before filming is called Pre-production.  I’m a big believer in the 6 P approach.  Proper Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance.

If you have followed my online personal branding series to date, you will have already identified your target audience.  Ask yourself, how you want to be perceived by your target audience? What is the visual impression you want to make on them?

Don’t Make This Common Mistake

Many people use their webcam on their computers. This is a no-no for quality reasons alone.  But what I find most unprofessional about webcams, is that the background is by default the room the computer is located in.


This is why it perplexes me every time I see a person wanting to position themselves as a business thought leader using their computer webcam. They may be giving an interview or presenting their expertise, but often their background setting is completely off-brand, e.g. cramped office space, kitchen, lounge or worse a bedroom! Not only that, random things that have nothing to do with the video topic like shelves, plants, pictures and goodness knows what else also appear in the background. This approach can undermine their authority, and does not serve to create a great first impression with viewers.

A kitchen setting may work well for a food expert speaking casually about food topics, but would you seriously hire me as your video presentation coach in the setting depicted in the images below? Without even opening my mouth I have already confused and distracted my viewer with elements that have nothing to do with my message.  Note also how my kitchen fit out is upstaging me in all its light reflecting glory. Yes, I’m looking at you fridge!

Develop a Visual Identity in your Video Presentations Video Presentation Coaching with Bianca Te Rito THOUGHT LEADERSHIP 1

Unless you are in the adult entertainment industry – this is not the approach I recommend!

Alarmingly, some people have their computer set up in the bedroom.  Unless you are in the adult entertainment industry – this is not the approach I recommend! Also dark, or low light level rooms should be avoided too, they present a seedy, creepy vibe.

Yes, you can certainly film your online video presentations in your home (I do) – but use a camera on a tripod and choose a background that ties in with your key messages.  For most people a simple wall or uncluttered setting works best.

Using Screens

In my own studio I have trialed various green-screens and background products over the years, some with great results and some not so great. I have had poor results with “hanging curtain” type screens (below image shot in my studio). These screens are not user-friendly in my experience, and are time-consuming to set up. They don’t transport well and the fabric is generally cheap and see-through. They wrinkle and crease easily and have to be kept hanging, and clipped or taped into place to prevent this. Not an ideal choice if your setup has to be packed down and stored after filming.

Green Screen_Using a Green Screen for your Video Presentation_STEBIAN.com_RAIL 2

Since 2010 I have been using “collapsible screens”. I have had an excellent results with these backgrounds. In fact I bought two; a 5’x7′ Green/Blue reversible and a Black/White reversible screen via In some camera equipment retail stores I have seen these priced at $200+ however all of my studio gear has been purchased online at a considerably lower price. These screens are lightweight but come with a sturdy spring steel frame that folds down into a disc carrying case. They are highly portable and travel well, and best of all they show no hideous creases! This particular brand has been good so far, and to date I have not experienced any issues with them.

How to Choose Your Online Video Background for Your Video Presentations Studio with Bianca Te Rito 1

Green Screen_Using a Green Screen for your Video BT

I have hung these background screens on my studio walls (using 3M adhesive hooks), or have filmed with them just leaning against a wall. I also use the stand-alone support stand (that comes with the kit) which clips easily onto the frame.

Green Screen_Using a Green Screen for your Video Stand

Big Buying Pointers

When purchasing a collapsible background, make sure that the screen is made of a professional grade material like 100% muslin cotton. It’s super important that your screen absorbs light and does not reflect it. A matte surface will have a more even color range, and wont bounce light at your camera. I have seen cheaper brands and versions of these screens using materials which are shiny or reflective. Personally I would avoid those.

Some Simple Suggestions (without using a Screen)

Try experimenting with interesting “textured” backgrounds. They can look great on video and add dimension to your film space. These are simple shots from around my apartment complex to help you generate some creative ideas.

How to Choose Your Online Video Background for Your Video Presentations textured video Backgrounds with Bianca Te Rito

  • Thought leaders may choose to film themselves in front of their library of books, awards, published works etc to reinforce the “I’m an expert” perception
  • Some product placement in the background may be appropriate – for example, if you are a rising artist you might feature your art in the background
  • Informal pieces to camera can work in your lounge setting but keep it really simple i.e. frame yourself using the rule of thirds. Use only one arm chair and keep the background clear of clutter ensuing that no objects cut into your head space i.e. picture frames, pot plants, lamps etc. Also avoid sitting crossed legged to camera not only does it direct your viewers attention away from your face, it can also appear (depending on the camera angle) that you have stumps for legs!  This posture can also look too casual onscreen (unless you are a Fitness / Yoga / Lifestyle expert, and your audience expects to see you that way then fine) but no – not ideal nor professional if you are presenting business content
  • If you are a jeweler you might wear your jewelry pieces while presenting to camera – but be careful that your products don’t distract from your key messages (unless you deliberately intend to refer to them in your presentation)
  • Your company logo or your brand colors may also be appropriate for a background – but again – make sure they don’t overpower you or the setting.

If in doubt, leave it out and opt for a simple, blank wall about 7 feet by 7 feet.  It should have a matte finish (to reduce glare and bouncing light) and be free of marks and scratches. White walls are OK, but you will need good lighting to reduce outline shadows around your head and body. To add a little personality place one or two elements in the shot – but ensure that they are on brand with you and your message and that they don’t upstage you. Pay close attention to their placement within the frame. Often your clothing or styling and make-up choices (can help create some visual flair) but again ensure that these elements do not upstage you or your message.

Things to Avoid Folks!

Avoid having TV’s or computer monitors in the background (again dependent on who your target audience is). Flashing images and pop ups catch the viewer’s eye and can seriously upstage you and your message.

Also, try to find a place to film where you can reduce any background noises and hums that can interfere with your audio recording.

  • Air conditioning, fluorescent lights and fridges should be turned off during your video shoot

In my next article I will talk about how to frame your shot correctly– and the psychological effect of camera angles this can have on your audience.

Thank you so much for stopping by!

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Posted in Look Good Online with Video by / February 10th, 2011 / 2 Comments »


  1. Anonymous says:

    This is great advice, Bianca, that we’re distributing to all our KnowledgeVision and Knovio users.