Sunday, July 26, 2009

How to make a tutorial?

This has got to be the strangest tutorial I will ever make. Dotty from TotallyTutorials asked me if I could make a tutorial on how to make a tutorial. While we discussed it we were picturing a tripod taking photos of a tripod taking photos of me working! Haha!
This won't be happening since I only have one tripod, one camera and jip, unfortunately, only one pair of hands... So, this will be more tips & tricks rather then a step by step tutorial. Feel free to add tips in the comments, the more the better! :)

Of course you start out with an idea you want to make a tutorial about. Don't be afraid of making a tutorial about something that you find super easy to do. It's not ridiculous to post a tutorial about something you have done a million times, someone else might never have heard about it or even seen it.
Google your subject and see what's out there already & make your tutorial better and completer. This is one of my favorite tutorials ever, it's so simple yet so effective:
Tripod & Camera
This is the most important thing to have to make a tutorial. People love to see lots of pictures on the subject, preferably close ups. A tripod is essential as you need clear, steady shots. Besides, sometimes you need both hands while making something so you can't hold the camera at the same time.
It's essential to use the timer-function on your camera. I always set it at 2 seconds. That usually gives me enough time to get my hands where they need to be on the picture.
Act as if you are making the subject but keep your hands as still as possible while taking the picture. Preferably, zoom in when you are making something small so that you can show the details. Don't be afraid to make enough pictures as once the process of making is finished you don't want to start all over again because one shot is not good enough to publish. Look at the pictures when you have made one and decide right away if you need more.
Get all your materials ready before you start making the tutorial. The first picture of a tutorial should always be the materials I think.
That way, people can see right away what they need and decide if it's within their reach.
If possible, try to use as little materials as possible, that way people don't feel like they have to go out and spent a fortune on supplies trying to make what you show.
Think about alternatives. If you don't have lime paint for example, use yellow and green and mix it yourself. This adds value to your tutorial.
Surface & light
Use a non-distracting surface. If you try to show something when the surface is a granny blanket, people won't see what you are doing. Use a large paper sheet, a plastic (no prints) tablecloth, a piece of cardboard, a clean table,... to work on.
Make sure you work in a room with direct daylight as otherwhise your pictures will be dark and not attractive to look at.
Step by step
It's best to take pictures of every step you do when making the subject. If you are uncertain about what they can be, you can write them down beforehand. I ususally just start and take enough pics of all that I do and decide later whether a shot is neccesary or not.
Prepare beforehand what you are going to do. For example, if you are going to make scratch off lottery tickets, skip the part where you cut all the paper. It doesn't add value to your tutorial if you show it as it's obvious that the paper needs to be a certain size.
In case you need to show different steps along the way, while it will take you a while before arriving at step 2, make the steps beforehand. For example, you want to show how to make a granny square. Make steps out of every row you crochet, so that you have a few squares at hand to stick underneath the camera while making the tutorial.Upload pictures & crop
When you are done with all your pictures, upload them to your computer and crop them!
I use Picasa to do this. Picasa allows you to easily make square croppings which is a great size for a tutorial. When you crop a picture, it will also show clearer what you are doing.
You can also adjust the light balance in Picasa. It's a free and easy program to use.
Photoshop is an option too if you know how to use it of course.
Add text to the pictures
Don't make a book out of your tutorial. Keep the text limited to the most essential words. A tutorial should be able to be quickly scanned by the brain without getting too much in detail.
The pictures should speak for themselves rather then you giving a lecture on how it's done.
For example, you use a stamp and stamping pad for something. Just say you use a stamping pad without getting into detail why exactly you use that certain brand or pad. When people have questions, they will leave a comment or contact you via your blog.

Add labels to your blogpost
Once you have everything written down in your blogpost, don't forget to add labels to your post.
The search engines will pick up on the labels and generate traffic to your tutorial.
I have a bad habit not to label my blogposts but I try not to forget when making a tutorial.

After you have put in all the effort of making your tutorial, of course you want people to see it. Therefore shout it out on Twitter, post a picture with a link on Flickr, start a thread in the Etsy forum, send a link to TotallyTutorials,...
When people like your tutorial, perhaps they will suggest it to other people or blog about it. Never ever copy/paste an entire tutorial, but add a link to the author's blog to give them credit for the hard work they put in. You can find a tutorial on this here.

Just for the record, my blog traffic has increased significantly because of the tutorials I post in my blog. I love blogging and sharing ideas and it makes me happy and content to know that readers out there enjoy perusing my blog for fun stuff to make or do.
I enjoy reading every comment that is left & sometimes it leads to new ideas so keep them coming! :)
There is also a reason why Dotty asked me to do this. She recently started this awesome exchange program on TotallyTutorials. Basicly, supply sellers offer free products to those promising to create a unique tutorial using the supply given.
How cool is that?
Dotty heard from a few people that would like to participate but they didn't know how to do a tutorial... so that's why she came knocking at my convo door.
Make sure to check this out as this is a fantastic opportunity to test new products or techniques and share your knowledge!