Now that you've tested your gear, you have an idea for your tutorial, and even have some preconceived sequences planned, it's time to create your final plan for your shoot before you start recording. A plan is important for which tasks are done and in which order are tasks done. Of course, most, if not all, of these tasks are performed by you in a typical scenario.
A plan for a tutorial shoot might involve the following:
list of locations
list of actors (although, it will probably be only you!)
a storyboard (optional)
What can help you immensely at any shoot is a shot list. This is a list with each shot that must be taken for the purpose of telling a given story. For narrative films, a shot list can get really complicated. However, if you are shooting a tutorial, you might keep it simpler by listing each shot you need to get for your finished tutorial.
For software and screenshotted tutorials, you can probably plan to shoot and capture in shot order. You will need a mix of screenshots and interview shots for such a tutorial.
If your tutorial is, say, an automotive one or the like, shoot in the order that makes it most convenient for your schedule. For a tutorial like this, make sure to vary the frame size of the shots, the camera angle of the shots, and leave time to shoot cutaways or "b-roll" for each location or setup so you can have more choices for editing once you get back to that task.
In either case, don't forget to record some audio presence (usually referred to as room tone or natural sound) in each location for your edit later. Room tone can be very helpful in fine tuning edits, especially for adding pauses (sometimes referred to as "beats") to your edit. You can put these details in the shot list.
For software tutorials, the focus is more of an interview format where you are shooting yourself, probably with a flip out screen or external monitor. One or two angles is probably ample for this kind of setup. Make sure lighting is even on your head and shoulders and that your background also gets lit in a somewhat dramatic fashion. Small, portable LED lights can really help in that regard.
A shot list is crucial to have for the purpose of making sure you have enough "coverage" for your tutorial. It also ensures that you are not leaving out any crucial elements you need to tell your story the way you want.
Shooting Schedule A shooting schedule is not very useful to the software tutorial creator, however, it could be handy to set some time constraints for shooting this kind of tutorial.
If you have a more involved tutorial, you may need one. You can create a shooting schedule more easily once a shot list is created. You should already have your shots arranged in an order that makes sense and makes the best use of your time, which should help you subdivide your shoot day. Don't forget to schedule in breaks and meal time for both you and for others helping you with your shoot (if you have others assisting).
Location For software tutorials, a studio setup is usually called for. This location could be your bedroom, home office, or other location which you can control lighting and sound.
What if your tutorial is more like the automotive one, like I mentioned. In that case, location is determined by where you are showing others that particular skill. In this case, it's probably a garage. If you were showing someone skateboard tricks, then maybe your location is a skateboard park. Wherever it may be, plan on finding the ideal location for each setup you are planning.
Ideally, "scout" your intended location ahead of time to determine any plans to shoot in that location. If you do not have time to scout the location in advance, consider building in some time for scouting once you have reached the location. Consider the equipment, requirements for equipment (like power outlets or lack thereof), and staff that is needed for each setup in each location. A set of charged batteries may be your saving grace!
List of Actors Are you going to collaborate with others for your tutorial? For a software tutorial, probably not! For anything else, you may need help. An auto mechanic or a skateboarder with talent, perhaps. Whatever the case may be, make sure you have a list of the people you plan to have in the shot for each location. Each person should be made aware of the time and place they are to meet you for the shoot well ahead of the shoot day. Call or email each actor the day before to check in with your talent. See if there are going to be any issues getting that person to the shoot. Plan to provide food and drinks for talent in your tutorial, especially if they are doing you a favor by appearing in your tutorial.
List of Equipment You should already have a checklist of the gear if you've been following through this workflow. This helped you prep your gear. Bring this along with you to the shoot. This ensures that you leave with the gear you brought to the location intact. It's easy to leave behind small pieces of gear at a shoot. Going over your checklist on the way out prevents this problem.
Storyboard A storyboard is not as crucial for shooting software tutorials as a more physical "show me how" one would be. Shooting a tutorial, especially a software tutorial. does not have the rigid shot requirements as do other kinds of shoots. With that in mind, you may want to think ahead at how you plan to shoot certain portions of your tutorial.
If you can anticipate certain portions of a more physical "how to" tutorial, it might be wise to think ahead how you might shoot the sequence, where you are going to place the camera, and the kind of angles you are going to need. Creating a storyboard might be a helpful aid for shooting these more complex steps, so do consider making one if it will assist you at the shoot. Coming up with unique sequences ahead of any shoot also allows you the ability to practice what you (or your guest) are going to perform live in front of the camera.
With your shot list, schedule, lists of actors, equipment, and a storyboard in tow, you are now ready to head to start shooting your tutorial.