One of the things that I’ve come across when networking is the small business looking to create a business video where they talk to camera. This is especially true for when they are first starting out. So I thought I’d give a few pointers to help out. I’m good like that. Haha. Anyway, as I was writing this, I realised that so much of this holds true for self portraiture too. Though I’m a photographer, I suspect an artist would have come up with a similar list.
If you’re using a web cam, well, I won’t say great, but at least they usually come with a stand. Make sure whatever you’re using has support. Most compact cameras have a screw hole at the bottom – it’s for a tripod, so get one. Or a stand. Or, failing that, some gaffer tape, white tack or something so that you can mount it on a piece of furniture. Or on a step ladder.
Filming from below makes it look like you’re talking down at someone, or trying too hard. It can work well if you’re rapping or singing (that “in your face” thing) – but notice how they usually bend into the camera. Too far above looks weird too. Though having said that, both can work for short snippets, as an effect. If you’re doing it in one take, keep to this rule.
Unless you are desperate. Most of these are pretty unflattering, because their lenses are not suited to portraiture. Instead, if you have a compact camera, or better equipment, use that. While not everyone can afford a professional video camera, they generally do produce less noisy (both in terms of audio and visual) results.
Wide angle videos look just as bad for straight-on close ups as wide angle photos. Use the zoom function. You might need to move the camera further back.
If your camera has a flip up screen that lets you see what it’s recording, use it. If not, position a mirror behind your camera, so that you can see what you’re shooting, and can get yourself in frame.
For the beginner, if shooting a head-and-shoulders style video (as in what the viewer will see, not the hair product), make sure there’s a little bit of space above your head, but not too much. Think of your video as a headshot that moves.
If for some reason you are unable to learn it, position it where you can see it without looking away from the camera. Looking a bit below or above the camera, no one will notice. Looking too far up or down, or left or right, and it’ll be too obvious.
If you sit on the edge of the seat, you’ll find that way, you’re less likely to slouch. if you’re standing, chest out, shoulders in, and then relax a bit. The idea is again, not to slouch, but neither do you want to look like a soldier standing at attention.
If you use a background that isn’t plain, it should be that way for a reason, and also not too distracting. Not because that’s what happens to be in your bedroom/living room.
If you’re standing in front of a day lit window, be aware that you will come out as a silouette. The fix for this is to put some light on yourself, which means either artificial light or using a reasonably large piece of white card. Or, for some more light, silver foil stuck to card works well. Or the silvery sun reflector you keep in your car for those two days that we Brits call summer.
An alternative might be to shoot at 90 degrees to the window, though pay attention to where the sun is. If you can see it, you might need to soften the effect with net curtains or tracing paper. If you can’t, you should be fine – the light from the window will give you a nice 3d look to the video. I would say avoid facing the window if it means you’ll be looking into the sun – this might cause you to squint. If the sun is out of sight, you’ll get a fairly flat, soft, lighting which seems to be acceptable for alot of news programmes.
And as a bonus:
The more lights you throw at a situation, the harder it is to control them.
Overhead lights are rarely flattering. Unless you like panda eyes. Come to think of it, any light you can’t use should be turned off.
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