I currently have a huge to-do list of tutorials to make for HGTV.com, so I thought while I was in the middle of making all of these tutorials, I would share some tips with you on making a tutorial. A tutorial on making tutorials, if you will. Good tutorials to be exact.
1.) Pick a good project. Try to show how to make something that’s totally original, a hack of something really expensive or take the mystery out of a project that seems complicated. Tutorials like these will get the most views, pins, comments, thank yous, etc.
2.) Do your research and know what you’re talking about. I’m going to admit that I have sometimes figured things out as I’m making the tutorial (and I really wish I could go back and redo some of those), but I usually do a lot of research and practice what I’m going to make. I’ll find a few video tutorials, DIY books or articles on the subject and then figure out the easiest and best combination of steps. I want a great end result, but I want to get there with the least amount of steps possible.
3.) Take great process pictures. It is so important to include visual aids in a tutorial, especially a written one. Someone’s eyes will glaze over and you’ll loose them if there’s too much, “Take the left side corner and reverse flip it over to the right bottom side corner and invert the piece until the top side is pointing down.” Say what?! If your really good, your text can stand alone without the pictures and your pictures can stand without the text. It’s not a bad idea to have someone read it for you to make sure everything makes sense.
4.) Use a white backdrop. I have started using foam board as a backdrop for all of my tutorials. It puts the focus on what I’m trying to show. I use one piece on the floor and one leaned up on a chair in front of a glass door. Even on cloudy days, I get nice, natural light.
5.) Take your photos facing the light. You will get a nasty shadow on your work if you shoot towards the light. Example…
…now it’s turned towards the light…
It’s a simple thing that makes your pictures brighter and it minimizes shadows that can be distracting.
6.) Take “action” shots. Whenever possible, show what you’re doing in the pictures. Don’t just take pictures after what you did and before you do the next thing. Everyone knows what cutting looks like, but it can be important for your readers to see exactly where you’re cutting or how much you’re cutting off, etc. It can even be nice to see what kind of scissors you’re using.
7.) Turn off all artificial light. I even turn off the light on my sewing machine when I’m shooting tutorials. Here’s why – with the light…
…as you can see, it makes a big difference. Natural light makes everything look soft and…well, natural.
8.) Take a lot of pictures. I take pictures from different angles, with different focal lengths and pictures of every single stage, even if it seems unnecessary. It might help someone if they can see what it’s supposed to look like after each step.
9.) Pick a point of view. Are you describing how you made it? As in, “I did this, then I did that”? Are you directing the reader, “You then take this and attach it to that”? Or are there no references made to anyone, “Take that and pin it to this”? I always write in the third style for my HGTV.com articles, but I’m more casual when writing tutorials for my blog.
10.) Include a beauty shot. Always start and finish the tutorial with a picture of what you’re showing (or just showed) how to make. It’s also a good idea to include a materials and resource list.
Whether you’re interested in writing freelance tutorials or just want to share some projects on your blog, I hope this is helpful! For those who just like reading tutorials, I hope you at least find this interesting.
Speaking of tutorials, I’ve been working on making preserved boxwood topiaries…
I think I have it down now and I’ll be making one tutorial on how to make a topiary and one for a wreath, both for HGTV.com. They’ll be available on their site in a few months.