Look Your Best on Camera

Putting yourself on camera – Tips and Tricks

 Camera   Most people use their onboard camera, either a smart phone camera or a laptop or desktop webcam.   Whatever camera you are using, please consider these points.

The camera must be level with your face, slightly (above your eye line.   Please do whatever necessary to avoid the unflattering and irritating view up your nose, framed by the ceiling.  Putting you camera or laptop on a stack of books might work.   The best way to insure that the camera is at the correct height is to put it on a tripod.  

A word of caution about tripods.  Camera shops and online stores like to sell ‘gorilla’ pods that twist and turn and wrap around poles.  Those are not a good idea for what we are trying to achieve with an important expert interview.  You need a proper tripod, with three sturdy legs.  The safest option is a tripod that can achieve a height of 6 feet.  That will enable you to use it when you are standing in a room, or when outside.  It also enables you to move the camera toward you or away from you, without having to worry about what surface is is resting upon.  The six foot tripod rests upon the floor.    

If you use a shorter tripod, that will probably work fine if you are sitting down for the interview.   A 50 inch tripod that sits on the floor should be tall enough when you are sitting in a chair.     (But 6 feet if you are going to stand)  

For tiny tripods, your desk top might suffice, but it might not.    It might not go low enough or high enough to be position in line with your eyes.  Another risk of putting a tripod on your desk is that it could limit your options in terms of moving the camera away from your face.    

If you already have a tripod, by all means test it out with your camera before buying another one.  Remember, whether you are standing or sitting,  the camera need to be even or slightly above your eye line, and 3 to 4 feet away from you.

Sit at least three feet, maybe more, from the camera.  Yes, I know that the sound is better when you are up close, and I’ll address that below.   Avoid looking like you are in a carnival hall of mirrors.   You want a nice head and shoulders shot.   Besides, the closer you are to the lens the more we see of your life experiences.   Leave the microscopic exam of your facial moon scape to your dermatologist.   

Tripods in summary   A 50 inch(4 foot)  tripod should be fine for a sit down, and 72 inch (6 foot) for standup interviews.  Six foot tripods could be hard to find these days, so you might need to sit down for interviews.

‘Selfie Sticks’   you can try them, but please bear in mind they are difficult to hold absolutely steady.  If your stop starts to move around, the audience will thinking about that instead of what you’re saying.

 Audio    The audio from build in computer can be horrible.  They are not directional, therefore will not pick up clear and uncluttered sound from a few feet away.  They are fine when you have them next to your face, like when chatting with friends.  But for a proper video, you should probably invest in an external mic.   This can be a little mic you clip to your jacket or shirt, or a mic on a stand.  It’s up to you.  I do not suggest one over another, so please don’t email me for recommendations.   Talk to your supplier, or a friend who has knowledge of mics.

Light   Bad light can hurt your video.  Bad light can be one or more of the following:  Too little, too bright, or coming from the wrong direction.    The primary light source, if at all possible, needs to be from behind the camera.  When I say behind, I don’t mean behind in a way that throws a shadow of the camera over your face.  I mean the light needs to be in your face, not on your ear or the back of your head.  This can be the sun, a professional video light on board the camera, or a lamp in the room.    It is okay to have another light source behind you, as long as it serves a purpose like showing up a book shelf.  But never let the ‘rear’ light outshine the light on your face.    Soft light is generally better than harsh light.  Your face will look better.  Too little light give you a dull look, maybe no look at all.   Sometimes you can soften a harsh light by draping a white cloth over the light.  Always remove any covering from the light when finished so there is no risk of overheating.

Background Noise   If your mic is close enough to your head, most background noise will not interfere with what you are saying.  Common sense goes a long way here.

Backdrops   A good backdrop need not be expensive nor fancy.   There are basically two types of backdrops: neutral and active.    An active backdrop would be The White House.  A White House TV correspondent could stand in front of a neutral backdrop, like a blank wall, but that wouldn’t support what she was trying to convey (Hi folks, I’m reporting from the White House).   Backdrops can be tricky if you don’t think it through.  The ol bookshelf has long been a favorite.  It can convey thoughtfulness and wisdom.  But a palm plant behind the sofa better have a good reason to be there because we’ll all be trying to figure out why you put a palm plant behind you, and we won’t pay any attention to what you’re saying.   A busy city street can be useful.  Just make sure you don’t have police horse making poop, or other distraction behind you.