This holiday season, follow these tips for better homemade videos...

* Be sure to leave about 3-5 seconds of space before and after the shot you are going for. This makes editing easier later, especially if someone is speaking to the camera. If you don't leave enough time before and after for trimming, your video and sound may be choppy.

* Try to avoid camera shake by using a tripod or bracing your arm on a wall or flat surface. This is especially important when zoomed in to further distances or filming an extended scene.

* Provide lots of light. Natural light is best but not always convenient for indoor shooting. Use windows when available, or turn on several lights in the room. External video lights are also available that will work for video cameras, or DSLRs with video. Be sure to watch for shadows, back lighting, fluorescents, or harsh lighting.

* Don't always zoom in and center the subject unless you are doing an interview style video. Try filming with your subject to the side, or try to frame them with surroundings. Framing can make for a more interesting scene. You do want to focus on your main subject, but don't fill the frame with them. Likewise, make sure your subject doesn't blend into the background.

* Shoot lots of B-roll (or secondary footage). This is just extra filler and really helps your video flow. You want your video to be entertaining and not just stuck on one subject. B-roll can include shots of decorations, scenery, people, etc. Just shoot anything that looks interesting to be featured under a musical track or voice-over later. B-roll can also include pictures from the event being filmed. Look around at your surroundings and if it looks interesting, film it. You can never have enough B-roll. You won't use it all, but better to have too much than too little.

* If you want to film several areas of a room or place in one scene, pan slowly. Too many quick movements can make a viewer feel a little dizzy. Start at one end of a room and slowly pan to the other side allowing plenty of time at the start and end for editing later. You may not want to use the entire pan in your finished product, but at least you'll have the footage to make that decision later. Pan shots also make great B-roll.

* Try using creative shots. One interesting idea is to zoom in tightly on your subject and then slowly zoom out revealing the surroundings. Again, this makes for good B-roll. Another good idea is to pan around your surroundings and then reveal your subject into the frame. Shoot from
different angles- shoot from above, below, different sides, focusing on different areas, framing with various surroundings.

* Leave plenty of head room. Don't put the top of your subject's head at the very top of the frame. Leave some space above their head for a better composition.

* Quick scenes are best. It is easy to lose the viewer's attention with longer scenes. They tend to get drawn out and boring. Also, a musical track under the video adds to the final product. Try not to use songs with lyrics if you are using audio from the video, as this can be distracting.

* Even though you may be having fun and playing with new shooting techniques, don't get too caught up and forget to film the "main event".

* Be sure to have batteries charged, and memory cards or tapes clear and ready before shooting!

- Katie Conner