Making my first reel when I hate cameras

I’m going to start by saying that I HATE being on camera. Even at my wedding I ran away from the photographers and actually cried when my mum informed me that of course I must have a photographer there. So being charged with creating Instagram reels to grow our business did not come easily to me. You want a strategy? Boom! I’m your girl. I’ll even come up with some great content ideas. But creating the content….. nah. Being on camera to create content? Out of the question. Only… I grudgingly have to accept that it is the way of the world and need to face my fears. So I wanted to share with you the (actually only slightly horrifying) process of making my first Instagram reel.

If you are unfamiliar with the concept of reels, they are Instagram’s way of competing with TikTok. They are short, catchy videos that are swipeable and disposable. They are there to grab attention, entertain and deliver a snippet of useful information. You can write a caption, use hashtags and save to your feed. With Instagram prioritising video content, in particular reels, mastering a reel is a must for a full digital strategy.

I’ve been a long time lurker - which in no way makes me feel better about creating my own reels I may add; Why do all women making reels have to be impossibly cool and young? Not a great start for my imposter syndrome. But through watching reels (highly recommended spending a good chunk of time doing this before you switch on your camera) you get a feel for what works and what doesn’t. Reels where people have text missing off screen, its all so fast you have no idea what is happening or don’t seem to have a point are swiped past as quickly as a guy posing with his ex on Tinder. In the words of Ari - Thankyou. NEXT!

You also notice trends: People using the same music, the same tricks, transitions and filters. If you want to be part of the group, you need to get involved with these trends as they will be prioritised by Instagram. A simple hack when you spy a reel that has the trending music on it is to click on the music text at the bottom of their reel and hit save. That way you have a bank of trending music that you can use to base your reels around (along with killer content of course - I am a strategist at heart!)

It seems that Instagram are prioritising reels that are below 7 seconds long. 7 seconds! What possible content can you put out in 7 seconds?? But through watching other peoples reels you realise that its not just about providing useful information, but is more the top end of a funnel that will get you noticed and drive people to your feed. Not to say that you can't put useful content in there, but use reels as part of a wider strategy to get yourself out there and don't put too much pressure on yourself to get every piece of information possible into 7 seconds. Be chill. Its the chill ones that seem to work best…I can be chill. I CAN be chill…. yikes.

OK, so now I get the theory. Part of a wider strategy to get noticed. Get the trending music. No more than 7 seconds. Look impossibly cool. I may scrap the last one - its my first reel and miracles are thin on the ground these days.

Next up was switching on my camera. I attempted to set up a background but once I realised the only plant I have was a very sorry spider plant that has used all its 9 lives, I opted for a white background instead. You can upload backgrounds but they gave my head a strange shape and I’m still concerned over the whole cool thing.

OK, ready to go, I went to reels, chose my music and pressed go. Gah - I've missed the music before I even got into position. Hang on…. ah, a timer button. Sweet! And not only a 3 second countdown timer (or however long you wanted) but also you can set the duration of the video to keep you on track. Instagram have thought of EVERYTHING! They even have a magic touchup button. Apparently the being beautiful and cool thing on Insta is more important than the feminist in me wants to admit. Hmmm.

OK, countdown….silly dance….stop and look. HA! Oh my days is that how I look? Quick outfit change (ok several outfit changes) and back to it. This time I am going to try the align function. This little button allows you to align 2 images perfectly by superimposing the last frame of your first video behind the live camera view, so you can make it look as though there has been a magic change (such as an outfit change). This takes some practice but the tools are there to make it work so a play about on it makes my attempt passable.

Next I get to shoot my first reel. OK. Breath. Be chill. Record. I opted for a really short soundbite -I decided not to run before I could walk and this was a good strategy to keep it simple. There are options within reels to add text and effects, but I opted to record it in Instagram and download it to edit the video in InShot. This handy little app is really easy to add text and stickers to appear and disappear as you wish. It’s a personal choice, but I like using it to build up my confidence that I’ve got it right (and watch the video a million times before I post it). Then I simply uploaded the reel, added the music and went live with the relevant caption and hashtags.

It can take a while for a reel to get traction, or it can go mad straight away. Or maybe the reel will do very little and that’s OK - you go back and look at how to improve it for next time by considering your strategy, the audience and whether you can improve on the content in any way. Either way, the hurdle of posting my first reel was done and it was…alright - not nearly as awful as the thought of it was. There are many changes I will make for next time to ensure that they fit within a wider strategy, but having got over the first hurdle I feel more able to try again and experiment with new effects. My advice if you haven't yet tried making a reel? Get involved. It’s really not as awful as it sounds.

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