Tips for Making Video Recordings of Yourself

December 12, 2022

Heming Nelson

Since COVID, it’s been increasingly common for us to conduct interviews online using Zoom, or a similar tool that we like to use  Or we ask people to record themselves on their phone and then upload the video to us. So we developed a short list of tips to help folks achieve the most professional recording possible. 

How should you record your video

We recommend using your phone if you can. The camera on your phone is usually far superior to the camera that you find on your laptop. Ideally you have a friend or a family member who can hold it for you, but you can just as easily use a stand or a phone mount. If you will be using your phone, here a few tips to keep in mind:

  • Record the video using the highest quality possible. 
  • Keep the phone horizontal, so the resulting video is in landscape orientation.
  • If you have the option, it is best if you keep the frame rate at 30 or 24 frames per second (do not record in slow motion). 
  • The camera should be held as still as possible, ideally not hand-held.
  • If you are recording yourself using the front camera, your video may appear mirrored (words will display backwards for example), that is totally fine, and the video can be flipped to the correct perspective when the video is edited.

Alternatively, you may wish to record on Zoom. This is particularly helpful if you would like to have someone join you online and manage the recording. Getting a second set of professional eyes and ears on your recording session often helps to eliminate avoidable distractions.

  • Close all applications that don’t need to be open during the recording. This prevents your computer from getting overloaded and skipping frames in the recording. 
  • When you join a video conference for the first time, your browser may ask you to give permission for it to access your camera and microphone. You must “allow” this.
  • If you are using Zoom, adjust your  “Video Settings” by clicking on the Up Arrow next to the video icon at the bottom left of your screen. Next, go to the “Video” tab, and then check the box that says “enable HD.”
  • Finally, on the same screen, under “Advanced,” enable all the checkboxes and make sure the dropdowns are all set to “Auto”

How to construct your video frame

Below is an example of a traditional interview framing. The subject’s eyes are dissected by an imaginary line that runs about one-third of the way down from the top of the frame, and one-third of the way from either the right or left edge of the frame. The subject should be turned to face the wider side of the frame. Note that you may be closer or further from the camera, showing more or less of your upper body, but always try to keep your eye level about two-thirds of the vertical height of the screen (this is the “rule of thirds”). 

Note that the subject above is not looking into the camera, but if instead is likely looking to a person who is likely seated to the side of the camera and conducting the interview. This is a very typical news or documentary style recording. Alternatively, you may look directly into the camera lens, this is especially appropriate if you are directly addressing the audience (as you might during a presentation). If you are asked to address the camera, you may want to position yourself in the middle of the frame (but still position your eyes about two-third of the way from the bottom of the frame).

One other thing to be aware of when positioning the camera and yourself is that you should try and have the camera lens at the same height as your eyes, so it is not pointed up, or down at you (this may tend to make you look more menacing, or inconsequential).  To achieve this, you can adjust your chair or stack books under your camera until you see the lense eye-to-eye. 

How to Light Yourself

Too often we see what is often called "Shady Face," that is, half of their face is shaded or blocked in some way. We recommend having one steady lamp, behind the camera for even, steady lighting.  One trick is to bounce that light off of a wall to soften it. The second biggest no-no is light from a window.  Always avoid sitting with your back to the window, as the camera will expose the shot for the light coming in the window and make you into a silhouette.

Think about the Background

You want people focusing on your face, not on what's behind you. Keep it simple.  While many people like to be photographed in front of a bookshelf full of books and collectibles, oftentimes these "trinkets" will cause distractions. Try sitting in front of basic backgrounds like blank walls, brick walls or a wall with nothing but one piece of hanging art. Usually boring is the way to go.


And one other tip about backgrounds. Try to put as much distance between you and what is behind you. This will often cause the camera to blur out the background and make your shot look professional Alternatively, if there is a wall close behind you, your shadow may be cast on the wall, and the frame will feel very claustrophobic.

Make Sure the Room is Quiet

This is probably our most important tip. If you do nothing else, try to Isolate yourself from distracting  noises such as air conditioners, kids, and pets. If you have a separate microphone that is available to you, use it. This will reduce the level of environmental noise in comparison to the sound of your own voice. And it will reduce the annoying echo from the sound of your voice that bounces off of floors and walls . If you do not have a microphone, don't be so far away that the microphone won't pick up your voice. And consider recording in rooms that are carpeted and have lots of soft surfaces to absorb sound.