This week my 5-year-old daughter will compete in a gymnastics Olympics, perform at her ballet recital and graduate from pre-school. Whew! It's a busy week and one that I'd love to capture on video. The only problem? I'm not very good at shooting video — at least not in any form that I would ever truly want to watch again. So I'm doing a bit of research now in the hopes of getting better shots as the week goes on. Here are some of the best tips I've found for shooting a great graduation/recital/vacation/you-name-it video:

1. Think before you shoot. All of the events that I want to videotape this week are ceremonies with a set beginning, middle and end. I have a general idea of how each ceremony will progress and I need to focus on the key elements of each ceremony that will make the best video.  

2. Be still. I am the worst about panning, zooming and moving the camera from scene to scene. There just always seems to be so much to capture. But the experts say for the best video, I need to be judicious about using these features. Shoot a single scene and hold the camera still for 10-20 seconds. Then move to another shot, zoom in, or pan out before I shoot again.

3. Look for the edits. As much as I'd like to shoot the entire 90-minute graduation ceremony, it won't do anybody any good to have that much footage of the big event. Most experts advise taking just 10-second shots of certain key moments — like say, the graduates walking in or throwing their caps in the air — and aiming for a final video that edits down to no more than three or four minutes. The added benefit to this is that I'll get to spend more time watching the events through my misty eyes than through the camera lens.

4. Relax and enjoy. It's easy for me to get so caught up in capturing the big moment that I actually miss the big moment. I'd like to get some good footage of my daughter's big events this week, but I also want to sit back, relax, and enjoy every cartwheel, plié, and tassel toss without worrying about whether or not I'm framing the shot correctly. In the end, I'll piece together whatever shots I have into a cute little video to share with family and friends and rest assured that I can replay the whole scene in my head anytime I want.

How to shoot a great video
How to capture a graduation ceremony, recital, or family picnic on video — in a format that you'll actually want to watch later.