In times like these, it’s never been more important to market yourself online. Video is one of the best ways to do that, but you might think it’s out of your budget range right now. The truth is, you can shoot great video with minimal equipment, alone, without even leaving your house! You just need to know the very basics of cinematography to help your videos look more professional.
Camera and Audio
If you have a phone, you have a camera! That’s all you need to get started, and nowadays you can get a really good picture quality from them. You can buy tripod mounts, gimbal systems, and download apps like filmic pro to get the best picture quality out of your phone. If you have a little money to spend, I’d go with a DSLR. You can do a lot with them, and they’re compact and easy to work with. I personally use the Panasonic GH5 and love it.
Either way, you’re going to want to spend some money on an external microphone, because audio is extremely important. I’d recommend a lavalier microphone for interviews and vlog style videos. You’ll get the best sound with the least amount of set up.
Ideally, you want to use a wireless setup so someone can monitor audio while you’re shooting. They can be a bit expensive, but if you’re shooting by yourself a cheap option would be to buy a Rode SmartLav, which records through your phone. You won’t be able to monitor audio while you’re shooting anyway, so you can just hit record and put it in your pocket.
I’ve been pretty lucky and have never had a problem using Zoom H1 recorders in these situations, which are also a cheaper option. The only drawback with these is you can’t listen to your audio until you are done shooting, so you might want to check your recordings every so often.
Shot Design and Lighting
Once you have your camera and sound taken care of, it’s time to design your shot. Having a flip-out LCD or an external monitor comes in handy if you’re filming yourself. Try to create depth in your background by moving as far away from it as you can. This will also help to blur out the background and keep the focus on your subject.
Set up your subject and then look at the background. Are there any distracting elements you should get rid of? Does your frame have a good balance? You want to avoid having objects directly behind your subject, so find a plain spot in your background to sit in front of. You can even find creative ways to frame them, just make sure the background isn’t drawing more attention than your subject.
Lighting is a big topic that we’ll discuss more later, but for now, we’ll cover the basics. You can use a three-point lighting setup for most interview or talking head style videos. This consists of a key light, a fill light, and a backlight. The key is the brightest light and usually on the opposite side of the camera. This directs the shadows towards the camera and creates more depth on your subject. For this example I used 2 Bi-Color LED’s which I would highly recommend because you can control the color temperature and dimming.
Your fill light will be slightly less bright, and at the opposite angle of the key. Sometimes you can just use a white surface to bounce your key light, or just use nothing at all if you want more contrast. In this case, I just used a white backdrop as a bounce to fill in the shadows on my face.
Utilize natural lighting sources like windows, or lights you already have around the house. Just be aware of different color temperatures, as daylight will have a blue hue, and typical indoor bulbs will be warmer and more orange. You usually want to use “soft” light if you’re shooting a person because the shadows will be less harsh and skin will look more appealing. You can do this by getting a softbox, bouncing your light, or getting some diffusion. A good DIY diffusion is a frosted shower curtain. Just use a neutral color, because you don’t want your lighting to be tinted.
The final light we’ll talk about is the backlight. The backlight helps by brightening up the edge of your subject, which adds some contrast and separates them from the background. You can use a harder light here since face shadows won’t be an issue. Position the light behind and above your subject, and try to point it at the hair and shoulders. This light isn’t always necessary, but it can help add that extra touch to your shot. You can also experiment with lights on your background to add attention to certain things, but just always keep in mind not to distract from your subject.
Plan and Rehearse!
Now that you have an awesome shot, you need an awesome performance. Make sure to plan out your shoot well in advance and have a good grasp of what you’re going to be talking about. Break down your script into digestible chunks so you don’t have to keep looking at it during takes. Try to finish a complete thought before looking at your notes, it will help later in the edit.
I find the best way to tackle more informal videos is to create an outline with bullet points, as opposed to a script. That way you’re remembering concepts instead of trying to memorize a script word for word. This will help you sound more natural and come off as more authentic. You only really need a script if you’re producing a high-end marketing video where you need to relay a very specific message.
The most important part of video marketing is just staying consistent. You don’t have to be an expert cinematographer to create content that people will love to watch. Do what you can with what you have and just get started! If you’re nervous, remember that you’re not shooting live…you have as many takes as you need! That’s another perk of shooting with little to no crew, there’s not as much pressure!
If you’re looking for more tips on how to shoot better video, check out my post about high production value on a low budget and subscribe to my newsletter for tips on creating awesome video and using it to grow your business. Thanks for reading, see you next week!