There are a few tips and tricks that are easily done that can greatly increase the quality of your videos, whether they be vlogs, interviews, or videos for your business or agency. This article is the first in a series, sharing simple steps to help your videos look better.

Lighting

The first weakness of many videos is the lighting.  You not only have to pay attention to the ambient lighting (the lighting already in the room), but also to where the lights are located.

Number one: avoid backlight.  Many times I’ll see people filming in front of a window, or with a bright light source behind them.  The camera, often set on auto-exposure, will then compensate for the bright light by making the person on camera very dark and difficult to see.  The solution is to either move the subject away from the bright light, mask or dim the bright light somehow, or place additional light, in front of the subject, that is more powerful than the background light.

Let’s assume that your goal is to make a simple video.  The below graphic shows you (green circle/oval) standing in front of a backdrop.  The backdrop could be a solid-colored sheet or drop cloth (make sure you get the wrinkles out), or a blank wall. First, move away from the backdrop/wall at least three feet.  This will help reduce the shadows on the wall, especially if you are signing in the video.

Next, place a light in front of you.  If you only have one light, then do  something like this:

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This will show light on your face, with some light spilling onto the backdrop .  However, your face and upper torso will be brighter than the background, which will make you appear more prominently than the background.

If you have two lights, then position them like this:

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Note that one light is a little closer than the other. This gives a bit of contrast from one side of the face to the other.  The lights, pointing at you, are approximately 45 degrees away from the camera.

If you have three lights, position them like this:

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The third light should be much less powerful than the first two, especially since it will be located close to the backdrop. This third light will brighten the backdrop, and provide visual separation between you and the backdrop.  If you want to get fancy, you can shine the light through something that will create interesting shadows, like a ficus tree.

Another common question is what kind of lights to use. You can use cheap painter clip-on lights, usually available at hardware stores.  The resulting light will be a little harsh, but it will work.   To reduce the harshness, you could place diffusers on the front of the lights, such as white paper.  You can also shine the light directly onto the ceiling if the ceiling is a normal height; this will make the light bigger and softer.

Other good options are floor-standing halogen lights that shine onto the ceiling.

 

Camera Angle

Many people use a laptop camera to record videos. While the video quality often is good, the camera angle often is not flattering. Whatever is closest to the camera is going to appear the largest. If the camera is pointed upward from below your chin, your chin and nostrils will seem huge.

The best camera angle is to position it at or above eye level, pointed down at you.

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If you are using a laptop to create your videos, you can improve the quality a lot by adding a light, and raising the laptop so that the camera is at or above eye level:

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Lighting and camera angle are two of the most important, and easiest, ways to make your video quality better.