When browsing through personal videos on YouTube or in your social media feed, it is pretty easy to spot the rookies from the masters when you know what you are looking for. There are common mistakes everyone makes in the beginning, but if you want to look like a master right from the get-go making personal videos on your smartphone, here are some practical tips to get you going.
1. Clean your lens
Your phone typically lives in your pocket or your handbag, and quickly picks up residue and dust from its environment on the lenses. The front of your camera also picks up the grease from your skin as you handle it with your hands and place it against your face when speaking on it.
When you make a video without cleaning your lens, it can make the picture look hazy or fuzzy, creating an image that looks out of focus. To avoid this, you need to clean your lens just before you shoot.
To quickly clean the lens, use a soft cloth or microfibre cloth used to clean eyeglasses.
If the lens becomes very dirty with built-up residue, using a little toothpaste with cotton does the trick. Simply apply a small dab of toothpaste onto a piece of cotton or q-tip, then rub the lens for a couple minutes. Once done, clean it with a damp cloth or a clean piece of cotton dampened in a little water. Don't worry, your camera lens can resist a little bit of wet!
2. Shoot in landscape
Sometimes it seems easier to shoot your video holding your phone in portrait (standing up) the way you would when taking a picture, but it creates a skinny upright view once uploaded to YouTube or your social media feed.
There might be the odd time when this creates a unique or cool effect, but the standard view for videos in any web-based application is in landscape, because most computer monitors are shaped like a TV screen.
If you are shooting yourself, your face should be in the top half of the screen, and being off center is just as effective as being right in the middle.
3. Use the back camera
Most novice video makers like to make their videos seeing themselves on the screen the way they would taking a selfie, but the back camera of your phone creates a better quality picture, and was designed as the primary camera source for taking pictures or shooting a video. If you are not planning to edit the video afterward, this might not be your best option at this point. Don't worry, the front camera of most phones records a pretty good quality picture as well!
4. If using the front camera, look at the lens, not the screen
When you look at yourself on the screen when shooting a selfie style video, you will not make eye contact with your audience, but your audience will see you looking somewhere else. If the style of the video calls for it, for example, if you want to create the image you are talking to someone else answering a question in an interview, this technique actually works very well.
But if you want to connect with your audience by making eye contact, make sure to look directly at the little needlepoint lens, typically at the opposite end of the home button.
Seeing yourself on the screen can be quite distracting, making it hard to keep your gaze on the little lens. A trick many use is to place a little sticky note or tick tack right by the lens to help them focus on the lens. Another strategy is to imagine the lens as a friend or a person you are talking to.
If you find it too hard to keep focus on the lens, consider using the back camera of your phone. Not much else to look at other than the lens!
5. Get to the point, and stick with it
Speaking on camera can feel the same as making a speech in front of an audience, and quite often you feel you first need to establish 'relationship' by saying hi, telling people how your day went, how you feel etc.
This is absolutely fine if you intend to only show your video to friends and family who are genuinely interested in listening to you, but if your hope is to reach a wider audience who does not know you yet, you want to get to your point very quickly so people know what your message is about. You need to give them a good reason to keep on watching!
Typically people found you by browsing after entering in keywords in a search engine, and your video is probably one of many options they had. If you don't state your main intent for your message within the first ten to twenty seconds of your video, people will quickly move on to the next option in the search engine.
Once you engaged interest by giving people a reason to watch your video, make sure you stick to your topic and provide continuous value, otherwise, your audience will lose interest and move on to another video.
A good strategy is to develop a basic outline of your video, for example:
- Intro - what are you going to talk about or a teaser
- Main points
- Support main points with facts, a demonstration or a story
- Call to action
This is just an example, but developing a consistent and effective outline will help you develop a pattern you can become really good at.
Practice Practice Practice
You are going to make mistakes, especially in the beginning. Your videos do not need to be perfect every time, so just keep on creating good habits until it becomes second nature and comes easy.
If you have any great tips for beginners, let me know in the comments below! We are all on a learning journey together.