11 Facebook Live Tips for Artists

Joy Hernandez

Artists in all media are turning to live video platforms to continue connecting  with their audiences in order to maintain that personal touch that is so vital to supporting their practice. The created artwork is an extension of the artist, and that’s exactly why many people are really following that artist: to be part of their world.

The most accessible and nearly universal platform artists are using is Facebook Live. Doing a Facebook Live video can be very easy, and you don’t need a slick production to pull it off. All you really need is a cell phone and a Facebook account. And while we are all contemplating real clothing or pajamas, hair up or hair down, while we are socially distancing, here are some concrete tips that can help portray your Facebook Live video—and your artwork—in the best light. 

*Note: These tips are brought your way via an iPhone user.  Your mileage may vary on other brands of phones.

TIP #1:  Just be yourself. 

You move around a lot; you talk with your hands; you relieve your nervousness with self-deprecating humor; you laugh at your own jokes; you say “um” or forget where you were going with that thought … While all of these behaviors may be a bug in your high school public speaking class, they’re a feature in a live video, simply because they’re an aspect of you, the artist, and that’s why that audience is tuning in.  By doing a Facebook Live as just yourself, you’re putting your world out there on your Facebook page.

TIP #2:  Post as a Page, not as a person.

Most artists have a Facebook fan page, one where people “like” your page to interact, rather than “friending” you as a person. Honestly, this is probably the best way to go, so you keep a barrier between your personal life and professional life. People that may not necessarily be a good Facebook friend could be a worthy page fan, and you expand your audience beyond people you’d just hang out with anyway. If you have a fan page, a lot of features, such as Live, are more easily accessed and controlled through the Facebook Page Manager app on phones, rather than the standard Facebook app.

TIP #3:  Warn your Page fans that a live video is coming.

Make a post the day before, or a few hours before, and definitely ten minutes before, announcing that you’re going to be doing a Facebook Live at a given time. This will give your fans a chance to be ready to watch and interact. If you use a colorful post feature, or include a photo (of a painting you’ll be demonstrating, for example), you’ll catch more attention. If you’re doing a class, this will also give your fans a chance to gather supplies and play along, Bob Ross style. 

TIP #4:  Caption This!

Before you set up your phone, type in a quick description about what's to come. Let your audience know if this is an intro or a demo, or generally what to expect (and maybe even how much time this will take). Type it all out and include some hashtags, so others can find your video that don't already follow your page. #IndyKeepsCreating is a must, but also, much like on Instagram, descriptor hashtags are a good idea. #PaintingDemo or #StudioTour would be good ones to throw in there. Consider dropping in your PayPal or Venmo after your caption but before your hashtags, so you can get paid.

TIP #5:  Always shoot in horizontal format.

Friends don’t let friends shoot vertical video. Think of it this way: They want to see your art. Hold the phone sideways and they can see more of your art, more than just a tiny weird vertical sliver while you’re forced to move the camera around to show more of that art (with the awful byproduct of audience motion-sickness). Yes, the phone feels better in your hands vertically, but for this, horizontal is best. 

Facebook defaults to vertical, so  hold the phone sideways, your hands on either short end, and sometimes you have to wait a second for the format to switch, or you may have to shake it a little to make it aware that you want to do horizontal video. The blue camera button will change to reflect the set-up. DO NOT move your phone back the other way until you are done with the live video. Things will get weird. If you didn’t type your caption before doing all of this, you’re going to have to suffer through a wider keyboard to type, but that’s okay.

TIP #6:  Choose your camera wisely.

You have two cameras on your phone: the selfie-cam that you access while you are facing the screen and the “real” camera on the back of the phone. On most phones the one on the back of the phone has a better lens, meaning the picture will just look better. Using the selfie-cam, though, will allow you to see questions from viewers as you go live. If you have someone that can help you read off questions, you can use the camera on the back of the phone. But remember: Any text shot while using  the selfie-cam mode will read backwards to the audience. This is a peculiarity of the iPhone; other phones may have an ‘invert camera’ feature in their settings, which you will definitely want to activate if you have it.

TIP #7:  Looking good!

We’re in our pajamas but we still want to look good, right? Here are some key tips that make you look and feel your best:

  • Get a tripod for your camera. There are some cool ones that have bendy legs that allow you to tie them to tall things for overhead timelapses and the like. 
  • When you’re just shooting a video of yourself, set the phone-on-tripod on something slightly above eye-level. Somewhere between 6 inches to a foot above your eye-level. This will have everyone looking slightly down on you, but you’ll be happier with your chin and no one will see up your nose. 
  • Turn on all the lights in your room, open the curtains, let in the light. Your phone’s camera is set to auto-iris, and this will generally help the picture. 
  • DO NOT sit in front of a bright window, using the window as your backdrop. You’ll either look like a shadow in witness-protection and your audience will see out in your yard, or they’ll see you with a weird glow as the window becomes a peek into the heavens (not as good a look as you’d think it would be). 

TIP #8:  Sound advice

Be aware of the ambient noise in your space. Turn off the TV in the next room, turn off the fan, have your partner to watch the kids for a while. Put the dogs in another room. Some stuff is just part of life, like barking dogs, or children popping into the room. Surprise! A cameo! But do what you can to minimize the distraction for the viewer; your kids are lovely, but folks are there to see you and your artwork.

And for the love of all, TURN OFF THE RADIO. Have no background music playing, even if that’s your normal art setting. Here’s why: Record companies have algorithms that search for their songs in online videos and will mercilessly report your video to Facebook, getting the video either silenced or removed (or both). They don’t even care if it’s just background noise. Just don’t have music, OK?

TIP #9:  Zoom with your feet!

If you’re showing off your studio, or wanting to give a close-up of your demo, move the camera by picking it up and going physically closer to what you want to show. Do not use the zoom feature with your fingers on the screen. It looks shaky, the picture gets fuzzy and no one can pull it off as well as they think. When you pick up the camera, keep it in the tripod, and move the entire thing smoothly, lingering slowly on what you’re showing. Imagine you’re dancing a slow waltz, without any dramatic twirls or side-to-side swaying. If you’re doing a demo, have your partner physically move the camera in while you paint. If you’re flying solo, touch the camera icon on your screen to flip to the other camera, while alerting your audience what you’re about to do. They’ll understand the brief screen disruption.

TIP #10:  Keep it moving.

The magic Internet video number is about three minutes. We all lose attention after that. Keep your verbal intro to about that length. If you’re doing a demo, be upfront in the description of the video and warn them that it may not be very thrilling moment-to-moment.  Try to keep things interesting anyway. If you’re all about to watch paint dry, tell the audience so everyone can come back later for Step 2. Keep talking to your audience, to keep it fresh, especially if you know you’re going to go over three minutes (like a 30 minute painting class). Move the camera in, show techniques, channel your inner Ross. There’s a reason he was so good at this sort of thing.

Tip #11:  Get yourself paid!

These demos and classes are fun! But you are working, and you should be paid for your time. Mention your PayPal or Venmo (or hold up a sign) so your fans can drop you some dough. Patreons and the like are one thing, but dropping some cash in the e-tip jar during a Facebook Live is incredibly helpful to all artists. Don’t be shy about shaking that tip jar every so often. It is possible for fans to pay directly through Facebook, but I’ve found it’s more trouble than it’s worth to get an account going. Just use captions to direct people to your fund.

Keep creating! and view a video of these tips here.

Joy Hernandez is a videographer and video editor for a television station in Indianapolis. Many of the tips listed here are from her work in that industry as well as through trial-and-error on Facebook pages she’s managed over the years. Hernandez is an aerosol and acrylic painter, and the president and founder of Full Circle Nine Gallery. Facebook: @JoyHernandezArt Instagram: @JoyTheStampede

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