How to Keep a Video Diary

You know how to keep a diary, but do you know how (and why) to keep a video diary? Many find that keeping a diary on video is quicker and more spontaneous than keeping a written journal or diary. There is an immediate outlet for thoughts and feelings with the added bonus that your diary is in living, breathing color. Unless you are an extremely fast typist you can almost surely speak more quickly than you type. This is a huge advantage for emotional journal entries where you crave the cathartic experience of expressing your feelings as rapidly (and intensely) as they are experienced.

Not only do you have your spoken words to make your journal entry but you also have the use of facial expression, images such as photos (that you either can hold up to the camera or add later) snippets of video or other visual tidbits. It’s up to you and the amount of time that you want to spend.

Here are some further tips to keep in mind when keeping a video diary:

  • What will you make an entry about? For some there is no question – they *know* exactly what they want to express. Others are not as certain. Either place is great to start from. If you already know what you want to say – then go for it! If you aren’t certain here’s a chance for self-exploration. Consider the topics you feel the most passion for and then experiment with an entry. You can always delete if if it doesn’t feel right!
  • Don’t forget about image. The more important thing is to relax and express yourself authentically but remember to use enough light so that it’s possible to see your face. Even a desk lamp or open window will help immensely.
  • Don’t forget about sound. Watching your video journal a few years from now will be a bit disappointing if you must resort to reading your own lips! Make sure that you are close enough to the camcorder mic to be understood and that there is no background noise (such as very loud music) to drown you out.
  • Don’t forget about location. Of course quiet and privacy is a must, but consider also how the location fits with your topic. What will be seen in the background? Does it relate to your entry? This isn’t something to obsess about, but it is something to consider.
  • How private is your entry? If your diary is very private take extra special care to make sure that the footage remains secure. One quick way to do this is to ‘zip’ your video files or use video diary software (post on this coming soon). Zip is a freely available means of compressing files into a smaller size. Many people are unaware that you can also add a password to protect the data.

Finally, relax and have fun! There is no one way to journal whether keeping a written journal or its video cousin. Use your imagination. Some of the best video journals I’ve seen more closely resemble experimental films. Below is an entertaining ‘food journal’ video I came across recently that the user chose to make public:

Video Blogging Tips

Video blogging is not difficult but keeping a few video tips in mind will help make you the best video blogger you can be! First, what type of video blog do you plan on keeping? A video blog might mean you speaking directly to your camera about a topic of you are passionate about. Or a video blog might just as easily be the ongoing saga of your whacky family life. There is no one single definition as to what a video blog is, so don’t get too caught up in that. Ask yourself these questions:

  • What do you want to communicate?
  • What do you want to help people discover?
  • Why is video the best way to do it?
  • Choose something that you feel passionate about.

If you don’t (yet) have a clear idea as to what you want to video blog about, don’t sweat it. Start with an introduction – who you are and what makes you tick – and see how that feels. It goes without saying that you’ll need a video camera to video blog but if you don’t have a fancy or expensive one don’t let that stop you. Use your pocket digital camera, your cellphone or your laptop.

  • Eye contact with your viewer is key. The only way to make eye contact is by looking directly into the camera lens. Experiment with this. You don’t have to *constantly* look in the lens. See what feels natural then play back the recording and see how it looks.
  • Don’t forget about audio. Bad audio can ruin any video. Pick a quiet location and sit as close to the camera mic as possible. For better quality, consider purchasing a camera that has an external mic input. Some of them are quite reasonable (and most laptops already include this).
  • Make sure you have adequate lighting and that the light is not coming from behind you. The lighting source could be a window or a lamp. Natural light tends to look the best with the least amount of effort.
  • Remember framing. Framing includes everything that is not you. Choose a background that looks pleasing to you and that expresses something of what you want to convey through your video. You can also make a green screen quite inexpensively.
  • If you are not going to edit your video afterward, try and keep your video relatively short – under five minutes. Editing is often helpful though to cut out awkward pauses and mistakes you might make here and there. Try imovie on the mac or windows media maker on the PC.

People sometimes get nervous about video blogging, but it’s easy once you start. The best way to learn is by doing so quit reading and researching and start doing!

Video Diary Software

It is not absolutely necessary to purchase video diary software, but 0n the other hand these tools can be very helpful in terms of organization. If you’ve kept a video diary for awhile you know that organizing all those videos of varying lengths can be a bit of a challenge. I talk about this in my book (and provide a system – you can learn more below) but sometimes it’s easier to let software take over. Below are two options, one for Mac and one for Windows.

Video Diary Software for Mac

Video Mémoires

This Mac based video diary system was created by a company called ‘Coding Robots’. It includes a very simple, easy to use interface interface and the ability to quickly catalog your videos by date (using the handy calendar on the right side of the screen).

The software features one-button recording and it worked for me as advertised. Within minutes the software was installed, I clicked ‘record’ and with no fuss, my camera was recording and I was making a quick video diary entry. Type in a name for your entry and it is automatically saved and linked to that date. In order to look back at a video, click on the calendar date and all the video diaries recorded on that day appear as icons. (See the screen capture below)

If you have a Mac, try out this software. There is a free trial so you have absolutely nothing to lose! If you decide to purchase the software is a quite reasonable $24.95. $14.99 – they recently lowered their price. Excellent deal!

Video Diary Software for Windows (and Mac)

The Video Diary

This  software has nearly identical features as Video Memoire. The interface is a bit lacking in style on the PC version (screen capture below). However, the Mac version of The Video Diary is well designed and pleasing to look at. The Mac version also offers some additional features such as the ability to export video diary files and change the library location.

The retail price of The Video Diary Software is $20.00 although occasional promos are available elsewhere as low as $15.00. The promo I found was at


Video Diary Software for iPad/iPhone

My Video Diary

This five-star rated app organizes diary entries by date and syncs to iCloud so you can use it across more than one device (it works for both iPad and iPhone). Importantly, it includes password security to protect your entries from prying eyes. Incredibly, some other video diary softwares do not. They will not be included on this page until they get with the program.:) C’mon!

P.S. Want to learn how to use your video diary to enhance creativity, increase self-growth and expression? Check out “Naked Lens: Video Blogging & Video Journaling to Reclaim the YOU in YouTube”. You can read the first sections for free on or by exploring the main page of this website.

“This book can inspire even the most nontechnical readers to grab a video camera and begin the  8 week workshop that can change their lives.” Barbara Ganim and Susan Fox, Authors of “Visual Journaling: Going Deeper Than Words”

“Original, informative and Brilliant!” Tristine Rainer, Author of “The New Diary”



Art Journal Ideas

I was speaking with my friend Sandy about her art journal the other day. For Sandy, art journaling provides an opportunity to keep track of what’s going on in her life using a multi-layered approach. It can be writing, doodles, pasted in photos, old tickets, or on one page she showed me, her handprint – it’s really quite beautiful. I thought initially that it would be challenging to keep this kind of art journal on video or maybe an art journal blog. But when I considered it further and I realized I was wrong.

Many experimental video blogs are close to being ‘art journals’ without actually calling themselves that. One of my favorite video bloggers is Jay Dedman and his work immediately comes to mind. Of course even calling something an art journal is subjective. If you decide you are keeping an art journal – than I’m certainly not going to argue – no matter what form it takes! And further, you shouldn’t let anyone tell you that it ain’t.

Here are some thoughts on ways to push video further – to make it more like an art journal in the way it’s traditionally understood. I welcome your suggestions, contributions and feedback.

  • Shoot often and without censoring. Take snippets. An image, a passing thought. Art journals often have elements of collage. Think of this as being your video collage. As soon as a I did that I had an ‘aha’ moment. This doesn’t need to be linear.

Include different mediums.

  • Shoot your computer screen. Are you surfing the web? Sending an email?
  • Video record your written diary entry (if you keep one).
  • Shoot a painting (either yours or one you like).
  • Tape yourself dictating a poem.
  • Include textures that resonate with you while roaming in or outside your home.
  • Don’t forget about the sounds your hear.

Art Journaling - Photo by Jon Sullivan

By the end of a day (or a couple of days) you should have a bunch of great material. This is where it gets easy to get stuck in a linear mode of thinking. After all, if you edit it – you have to put it in a timeline – one piece of footage after another. Which goes first? How do you layer? Here is a suggestion:

Show your videos all at once.

For example something like this.

There’s only one problem with the above page. I don’t know precisely how they did it. I’m still experimenting, but my embeds haven’t worked out as well as theirs. Maybe you won’t have this problem, but if you do there is also Flowplayer which offers a free version. It allows multiple videos on the same page.

Some people might say – this is a lot of work! It is work, but keeping an art journal is more work than just writing (or typing) a regular journal or keeping a simple video blog. Is it worth it? Only you can answer that. I encourage you to give it a try and see if the benefits outweigh the time expended. Let me know how your video art journal goes! I will be posting mine here soon.

Video Blogging: No Age Limits

The last time I went back to Canada to visit my parents I taught my mom how to video blog using the camcorder built into her laptop. She had read ‘Naked Lens’ and being the supportive parent she is, wanted to try out the exercises. I appreciated her support, but I half wondered if she wasn’t humoring me just a little bit. My mom and technology generally don’t mix (no offense mom).

Well guess what? I was completely wrong. My mom loves video blogging!

She has been keeping a video journal nearly every day and I am so proud of her. She is a born storyteller and I can tell that video really taps into her need to communicate. She has never consistently kept a written diary as far as I know. I haven’t seen one of her video blogs yet, but she tells me that she has been conveying stories from her life, stories about my grandfather and interesting things that happen during her day. Because I live in NYC and she lives up in Winnipeg we don’t see each other all that often – one or two times per year on average. Her video diaries connect us in an entirely new way. No matter what continues to happen or not happen with ‘Naked Lens’ *this* makes it all worthwhile to me.:)

So if you have a mother, uncle, or grandparent who is even slightly open to the concept – buy them a cheap camcorder and show them how to video blog! Who knows – they might love it! None of us will be here forever and it’s so valuable to have the opportunity to know and understand where we came from and learn from the perspectives of those we love. Check out the ‘Leave a Legacy’ section in ‘Naked Lens‘ for more on this.

Happy video blogging!

What is Video Journaling? Using your video journal to explore the self.

Video Journaling is in some ways even harder to define than video blogging. By its nature it is personal and hidden from view. From my perspective, video journaling uses video to privately explore mind, body and soul – just as people have done with paper diaries and journals for centuries. Journal and diary keepers are in many ways the forerunners of autobiographical filmmaking which ultimately led to video blogging.

In Naked Lens I describe video journaling as being the “yin” to video blogging’s “yang.” Yin and Yang are the Taoist expressions of universal balance.

Yin Yang

Taoist Symbol for Balance

Sometimes Yin and Yang are described as active versus passive. I’d rather think of them as being expressive and regenerative. In the Yang, expressive mode, we connect with others, we make our selves known, we share with the world. But to express something authentic we also need the regenerative stage where we incubate our thoughts and ideas somewhat protected from outside influence.

In our very Yang society we seem to lack the Yin mode, especially when it comes to media. Without Yin to balance it, culture becomes a giant fun-house mirror. Everything is rapidly reflected back and bounced around, sometimes true creativity can be lacking.

Video journaling is the opportunity to reclaim video as your own. It’s a building stage where you can step back, take a deep breath, let it out and just “be” on camera. There are no expectations, there is no one to impress. For some people this regenerative stage leads to video blogging, for others using journal video by itself can be a healing method to reconnect to something deeper.

Vlogging through fears

Heights are not my favorite thing. I’d stop well short of describing it as a phobia in the clinical sense, but they certainly can get my knees a knockin’!

Recently I was in Quito and had the chance to visit a cathedral with a series of catwalks and (at least to my mind) precarious ladders leading to a bell tower hundreds of feet above the ground. Video camera in hand I vlogged the entire experience.

Camera in hand I eventually made it to the top. I was in Quito on my own and for some reason there were NO other tourists at this location. Without my video blog as motivation I’m not sure I would have made it to the top!

Yet in the act of vlogging I gained some insight into the irrational nature of my fears and once again learned that I CAN push through the feelings…and do it anyway. I’m going to consider other areas of life where a vlog or journal could be used as a witness and a motivator. Maybe if I video blogged about my pile of laundry it will actually be a fun activity? Nah.:)

Are there areas of life you might put your video blog or journal to work? Here are some initial thoughts – please add some of your own. Remember to use your camera as a grounding force that brings you into the moment – don’t allow it to become a distraction.

– making a phone call to someone you are nervous to speak with

– committing to an exercise routine (make a video blog showing other people how to do your workout/take us on a tour of your walk, etc.)

– overcoming a phobia (water, dogs, spiders, clowns – whatever!)

– learning a new skill (probably best with something visual but could be just about anything – maybe I’ll dust off those juggling balls I got for Xmas last year).

If you incorporate any of these ideas into your vlogs, please let me know!

Video Blogs and the Unexamined Life

I was explaining my book to a woman at a party the other night. Let’s call her Cindy. I explained to Cindy that my book is about using video blogging and journaling for creativity and self-expression. Cindy was a woman in her early thirties but wasn’t super familiar with YouTube, video blogs or the general vlogging phenomenon. I explained the difference between keeping a public video blog or a private video journal. “Video can be like therapy. It’s powerful to sit down in front of a camera and express yourself.” I told her.

“I have to be honest.” She said. The whole concept is really very disturbing.”

I must admit at first this gave me an inner chuckle that I suppressed out of politeness and because Cindy LOOKED upset. I’m not saying everyone “gets” my book, but I had never had that kind of reaction before. I was curious to know more.

“I mean I get creeped out when I see myself on a TV monitor in a store.” She told me. “It feels so intrusive.”  Wow.  I pressed her a little bit more, but I didn’t know her well enough to push it too far. I mean this seemed to be about something deeper than being camera shy. I also felt that maybe my book could really help her if she was willing to give it a chance.

Is video “intrusive”? Yes it can be intimidating to face a lens, and maybe this is part of it. But for someone who doesn’t like to be on camera, perhaps is almost a bit phobic about it, it MUST feel intrusive to walk past the myriad video cameras she passes in daily life.

In “Naked Lens” I talk about the imagined audience – who or what we imagine on the other side of the lens. I believe this is a large part of what creates our feeling of comfort or discomfort. Either what Cindy consciously or unconsciously imagines is hostile – or the fact that she unable to imagine anything and therefore can’t see “who” is watching her (I’m thinking of a void) throws her into a place of fearfulness and vulnerability.

There is no doubt that video will keep growing in its presence in daily life. There are two issues here. One is that of privacy which is an important, but separate concern. The second that applies to Cindy is one of ease and comfort. I believe it will become increasingly important to be comfortable on camera. People who feel as Cindy does will be at a definite disadvantage and will be more and more often be placed in situations they perceive as unsafe.

My opinion is that anyone with a camera phobia could stand to gain a lot from beginning to keep a video journal. Journaling would open an opportunity to create a safe space to slowly and carefully explore their fears. If there fears were severe, they could even explore them with the help of a therapist. I firmly believe that these fears are not just about the camera itself, but deeper issues which I’m sure are different for each individual.

Whatever the case, as a famous Greek philosopher by the name of Socrates once said. “The unexamined life is not worth living.”

In other words: feel the fear and do it anyway.


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