Best practices for smartphone selfie video recording
Not long ago we would never consider shooting high quality videos on our phones because the results were so inferior compared to a DSLR or video camera. Today, however, smartphone video quality has become fairly impressive, and you can't beat the convenience. We now have incredibly powerful cameras sitting right in our pockets!
But just as having a great DSLR or video camera doesn't mean that everything you record with that camera will look amazing, the same applies to smartphone video. There are considerations that you need to take into account and employ, so that you can capture the best possible video on your smartphone.
Here are the four main types of considerations that you should think about when approaching the production of your own selfie video:
Framing and Composition
Framing and Composition
The vertical vs. horizontal debate
It wasn't long ago that vertically-shot videos (portrait), as opposed to horizontally-shot videos (landscape), were shunned as an inferior approach to smartphone video recording, but that has changed dramatically in the last couple years. This is mainly due to the prevalence of social media, and because it is just more convenient to record on your phone the way that the phone naturally fits into your hand, which is vertically.
If you are trying to decide whether to record vertically or horizontally, here are a couple things to think about that may help you in making a decision:
What is the platform that this will be viewed on? If it will be on social media (Facebook, Twitter, Snap Chat, etc.), then it may be best to shoot in vertical
If the eventual destination for your video is Youtube, Vimeo, or on a website, perhaps it may be better to shoot horizontally
If you are going to be editing this footage together with other visual media, then think about how the composition of that media will work when edited together with either footage shot in portrait or landscape
Regardless of whether you record on your phone in portrait (vertical) or landscape (horizontal), the following fundamentals should be heeded when shooting in either configuration:
Place the camera at eye level or slightly above, and experiment a bit to find the position that is most favorable/flattering
Is it contextually related to the content of your video? Do you want it to be?
Try not to make the background too busy. Lots of objects and knickknacks could distract your audience
Natural and diffused light (e.g., sunlight through a translucent window shade, or under a tree that has a large canopy of leaves) work great for selfie videos
It is often good to position your face at roughly 45 degrees from your light source, so you can create a gentle shadow on one side of your face.
When possible, recording in the early morning or late afternoon/early evening, will offer a softer and more flattering natural light
Pay attention to dramatic disparities in the light in different parts of your shot, and adjust your shot as needed:
(i.e., You may think it's a good idea to shoot a selfie video with your back right up against a bright window, but it's possible that your face may end up being very dark and underexposed, and the window may being overexposed and way too bright)
Watch out for glare in glasses, and adjust the position of your head and body if necessary
Here is a Bok Center-produced video that explores lighting considerations for when recoring in and around your house:
Here is a Bok Center-produced video that explores lighting considerations for when shooting outside:
Here is an externally-produced video that offers some valuable lighting tips as well:
When recording outside, do your best to find a time when it's not too windy and is in a location that is not overwhelmingly noisy from other sources (cars, construction, dogs barking, etc.)
When recording inside, try to anticipate other potential noise issues that may exist (air conditioners, fans, heaters turning on, phones ringing, etc.), and do your best to mitigate those issues
If external noise is an unavoidable issue, consider using wired earbuds, an affordable wired lavalier mic, or using bluetooth ear buds (if you have them) to minimize the problem
Here is an externally-produced video that demonstrates a few of these options:
Keep it brief! Selfie videos are most effective when only 1-2 minutes
Practice! Write out your script, and think through what you want to say - the more comfortable you are with the material, the better the delivery will be
Be personable! Think of someone you care about when you're giving your delivery, and speak to them! Make sure to smile and speak with emotion
Gentle hand gestures, as long as they don't affect the stability of the shot, can be effectively employed as well