Top 6 Persuasive Techniques Used In Documentaries

Documentaries have been there since time immemorial. However, defining what they are wont hurt. Documentary films are non-fictional motion pictures which are intended to document some aspect of the truth, or reality basically for education, instruction, or even maintaining a historical record.

It according to filmmakers a filmmaking practice, a mode of audience reception, and a cinematic tradition. However, over time, documentaries have continually evolved, and to this day, there are no precise boundaries.

In the past, these films were known as actuality films. Back then, they would only run for a minute or less. Today, however, these films are longer and include more categories. These categories are educational, observational, docufiction etc. They are informative, and today, they have found their way into schools where they are used to teach various principles.

We have many social media platforms in the form of YouTube and the likes that allow the distribution of the documentary. Here they educate masses as well as being here; they also broaden the reach of people who in turn receive the information being past using these videos.

Persuasive Techniques used In Documentaries

Today, there is more sophisticated equipment that not only makes the documentary clear to watch but also makes one keen on watching it. These can be called instruments of persuasion in making a documentary. Marketers understand this, and therefore, they are making the most out of it. The persuasion techniques do not necessarily have to be complicated equipment but a host of other things that will be discussed below. We will discuss them one after the other.

1.   Powerful Images

Documentaries are all about perception. When talking about the photos as a persuasive technique, there is a lot that goes on to that. For instance, a powerful image would feature artworks, videos as well as photographs. There is, without a doubt, the artistic side of making a documentary and the powerful images sets in the emotional process. There are up to 10 significant aspects that go onto powerful images of a documentary.

a)   The Resolution

Resolution is the intensity of detail that goes into the picture. The one with high pixels, for instance, is clearer and sharper with fine details. It is considered better than one with low pixels. There are various resolution standards that cinematographers often use, and these include, the standard definition, high definition, full high definition, and ultra-high resolution.

b)   Noise Performance

Every image has its amount of noise, which is the grain which can be found on the dark part of the picture. Documentary producers say that this is some indication of low quality. Therefore when the noise is low, the better the quality. Noises must be avoided to persuade people into watching your documentary.

c)   Dynamic Range

In other words, this is referred to as Latitude. It is the ability of the camera o see in either bright or dark areas at the same time. A camera with a high dynamic range will show better in both dark and bright areas. In the same breath, one with a low image range will only see the shadow. It also may only see the highlights, while others only see clipping.

d)   Color Science

Every camera manufacturer designs a unique rendition for their cameras according to what they think looks good. They first start with the neutral raw colors data then tweak how the camera will see every single color in a process called camera science. Specialists argue that accurate rendition is seldom the best.

2.   Expression of People’s Faces

Human faces are very compelling in documentary films. As Hungarian film theorist Béla Balázs believes,  the close-up shot of the human face better distinguishes films from any other performance arts. The camera can bring us up close to a face where we can gaze deep into the eye to examine the contracted muscle in in-depth, intimate detail. In the days when using a wide shot was in style, Balazs was famous for bringing the audience attention to the power of expression through not body as a whole but the face to be specific.

Also, close up shots, especially on people’s faces personifies drama. It is true because a couple of times, people have difficulty computing emotion on an abstract or large scale. Therefore the close up of someone helps the viewer to understand the actual consequences of a devastating occurrence.

3.   Color Vs. Black and White Documentary Films

Colour without a doubt affects our emotions when we are watching a documentary. It is also a significant aspect to consider when you need your documentary to be more persuasive. For one, the back and white video have reductive simplicity. Even when talking about photography, the black and white or rather monochromatic palettes are more straightforward and fewer. That’s why students learn to photograph in black and white.

On the other hand, color videos add complexity. It is because; a colored photo of the world shows it in all colorful glory. Colored videos are controversial, and no one knows, but according to research, the human eye anything between 1 million to 10 million colors. Therefore when you introduce the element of color in your photography, viewers react to it.

In the same breath, when black and white color is used to make clips in a documentary, it can be to suggest that the scene happened a long time ago. In the past, most cameras would capture in black and white as the new age color cameras were still not here. Therefore, a present shot can be taken in black and white to send a message that such were flashbacks. If a documentary producer wants their documentary video to be more captivating, they can interchange instances where they use black and white and color clips. 

4.   Use of Celebrities

Marketing documentaries are fond of sing celebrities when making their films, documentaries. It is called a celebrity endorsement. This idea can reap the documentary or brand huge rewards. In the same breath, it has its pitfalls that a company should consider before developing an endorsement program. But as a persuasive technique in documentaries, celebrity endorsement helps people to remember the documentary or even the advertisement. When people see or hear their favorite celebrity on TV, they associate their voice with the documentary or the brand. Another reason is that believe that the product contributes to the celebrity status that is envied by most. Documentaries that use celebrities also stands out from the rest.

5.   Using Regular People

Celebs go a long way to make a documentary popular and most viewable. But someone argued that it is also essential to use real people. In saying real people I mean documentaries should use regular people, maybe people who in other words ‘don’t matter in the society’. Everyone matters in the society but celebrities and people in power, as seen by the community seem to matter more. It can bring out the disadvantages of using stars in your documentary. For one, when you use a regular person in the documentary, people of specific age bracket, or thinking capacity will tend to believe what you are trying to articulate in the film. 

They believe that what an average person says on a documentary can be trusted more than what a celebrity says or does.

6.   A Clear Call to Action (CTA)

A clear call to action in a documentary seems straightforward that your audience will trust you more. If you do not have a clear call to action, your audience will make a judgment that you are not genuine in what you are offering. A clear call to action motivates even your sales to funnel. Therefore a documentary needs to have a short and precise call to action.


Persuasive techniques are vital in getting your documentary popular among social media platforms such as YouTube. Also, understand the benefits as well as the drawbacks of each method. Even, understand your audience psychology and feed them with what they want. Finally, persuasive techniques work wonders when you use them appropriately.

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