Summertime is upon us, and hopefully many of you will be heading out on vacation with camcorders, flip cameras, or even just smart phones. Here are some basic tips for shooting home video. These are all basic shooting tips, assuming that you won’t be doing any editing of the footage. I’ll be addressing basic editing tips in a subsequent blog.
1. Keep an eye on the recording indicator. Camcorder record buttons are toggles – press it once and it starts recording, press it again and it stops. If you don’t keep checking for the record indicator, it’s very easy to get out of synch. When that happens, every time you hit “record,” you’re really hitting “stop.” And vice versa. Then all you end up with is footage of the ground and the inside of your camera bag.
2. Always shoot horizontally. Photos come in all sizes and proportions. They can be vertical (portrait) or horizontal (landscape). Video is ALWAYS horizontal. Look at your television; the picture is horizontal. If you turn your camera or phone vertically and shoot video, you’ll either get big black vertical bars on either side of your video, or you’ll have to turn your head sideways to watch it.
3. Keep the camera steady. Really steady. As steady as you can. If you can use a tripod or monopod, do it. And the more you’re zoomed in, the harder it will be to keep the camera steady. If you can get closer to your subject, moving closer will give you a steadier shot than zooming in.
4. Try not to move the camera during a shot. If you do have to move, zooming in and out or panning side to side, do it slowly and smoothly. If you need to move the camera to a different subject, stop recording, move the camera, and record a separate shot.
5. Don’t talk. The camera is an observer. If something has to be explained, have someone in the shot talk to the camera. “Smile for the camera, Jeffrey. Jeffrey, can you smile for the camera? C’mon Jeffrey, smile for Daddy…” is not going to get Jeffrey to smile. It’s just going to annoy your audience.
6. Be aware of light. Remember when you were a kid, it seemed like every time your parents took a picture of you outside you were squinting? That’s because they knew to keep the sun behind them. Yes, you were squinting, but we can see you squinting. If the light source is coming from behind your subject, your subject will be a big, black silhouette.
7. Try to capture people candidly. People staring and waving at the camera are boring. People being themselves are interesting.
8. Be aware of things in the shot and in the background. Everything in your shot is, well, in your shot. You may not notice it while you shooting, but that doesn’t mean it’s not there. Try to see everything in the frame. Otherwise, you might end up with elements that are distracting or, even worse, embarrassing.
9. Watch your video and learn from it. Review your footage. What did you like? What didn’t work?
Again, these tips are very basic. Look for future blog posts to take it up a notch.