How To Make Better Videos With Your Smartphone Or Webcam (Without Any Extra Equipment)

28th March 2020 No comments

With the country (and most of the world) on lockdown to battle COVID-19, and with professional videographers like ourselves grounded for the time being, many people are relying on their smartphones and webcams for creating short videos for their businesses.

While the picture quality from these small cameras is better than ever, there are a number of simple errors that can catch people out and make these videos look unprofessional.

To be helpful, I’ve produced a short video that provides practical tips for getting a better quality picture from a smartphone or webcam. All of these tips can be implemented without the use of any extra equipment. All you need is your smartphone, tablet or laptop – and perhaps a bit of creativity with items you can find in your home. You can watch the video above.

As a bonus, these tips can also be used for improving your video calls, for taking better selfies, and for any other occasion where you might be in front of a “DIY” video camera setup. I hope you find them useful!

The authentic approach...

To further my point, I filmed this video using nothing but my smartphone, tablet and items I had around the house. I also used the microphone in my laptop for recording the voice-over.

If this is the first video you’ve seen from us, why not take a look at what we can do when we’ve got a proper camera in our hands? View our portfolio.

If you can’t watch the video right now, here are my tips in text format…

Choose Your Location

First of all, you’ll need to think about where you’re going to record your video. The immediate consideration should be towards what can be seen in the background, and whether or not it’s appropriate. Perhaps you shouldn’t film a video in your bedroom, or in a place where people can see something awkward like your toilet, if you’re recording a professional video for your business.

You should also be careful to make sure that you don’t have any embarrassing possessions in view of the camera, like your underwear hanging on a clothes airer, or any embarrassing family photos hanging on the wall. Also be sure to check that none of the objects in the room are doing anything unusual on camera. In my video, I used the example of a greetings card on my shelf that made it look like I had rabbit ears sticking out of my head. Things like these should be moved before any filming.

Sometimes, to get around these issues, people will film themselves against a wall as they know there’ll be nothing behind them. This isn’t ideal as it can look bland and makes you looked “boxed in.” Showing some of the room in the background will make your video look far more interesting and will prevent you from looking cooped up.

Finally, is the location quiet? If you have any appliances running, like a washing machine or tumble dryer, you’ll need to make sure these are stopped before you start filming. (Or you’ll need to move away from them.)

Filming Outside

I would strongly avoid filming outside as you lose a lot of control. There might be wind or traffic noise, sound from animals, noise from other people and so on. The lighting can also be quite tricky too, especially if it’s bright and sunny.

Ultimately you never know what will happen in an uncontrolled environment, and the last thing anybody needs when recording a video is to be interrupted by other things going on around them.

Lighting

Once you’ve found a suitable location, it’s time to think about the lighting.

A common error I see is people filming with a big light source behind them. My advice here is simple – make sure that any large light sources, like windows, are in front of you when you’re filming.

In the examples above, you can see a “before” image where I was stood with the window behind me. The background is overexposed and “blown out”, and I look quite dark and shadowy by comparison.

In the “after” picture I’ve simply turned 180° degrees to face towards the window. Look at the difference – all of the light is now hitting my face, making me the brightest part of the shot. You can even see the colour in my face. Much better!

Webcam Blog Overhead Lighting

Also, beware of filming underneath any direct overhead lighting. As you can see above, the overhead light I’m stood beneath has added a lot of shadow to my face. There’s shadow beneath my fringe, around my eyes, and my nose lines. It’s not flattering.

Additionally, in this example, you can see how having two light sources in the room has caused some mild havoc. The overhead light has a very warm colour temperature, making my face look very yellow, whereas the rest of the room is being lit by light from the window which has a very cold colour temperature, making it look very blue. This makes me look a bit ill, and the rest of the room seem cold. So, as a bonus tip, try not to mix your lights like this.

Camera Position

When it comes to positioning your camera, try to avoid holding the device in your hands as this can make your footage wobbly. Holding it in place will also hurt your arms after a while, too. Make sure your device is placed on a stable surface and isn’t likely to move.

For best results, make sure the camera is at eye level. You don’t want people seeing up your nose or looking down at your forehead. Use household items to lift your device up, if necessary. In my example, I used some DVD and Blu-Ray cases to give my device some height.

Webcam Blog Positioning

For a smartphone or tablet without a stand, prop your device up against something so that your camera is at an appropriate angle. It doesn’t matter what you use; nobody is going to see what’s behind the camera other than you. Just make sure that your device is stable and that you can operate it without knocking everything over.

Audio

For capturing good audio, you’ll want to make sure you’re as close to the microphone as possible. Try not to go any further than a metre away from the device as your voice will get lost in the room. In my video, I was about 50cm away from the camera.

Using Headsets

You might be tempted to use a headset or wireless headphones to help with capturing audio, but I’d generally recommend against this.

When you see someone wearing headphones in real life, it’s generally because the person is listening to something and trying to ignore the world. In a video, headphones are a subtle barrier between you and the audience. If you can avoid it, I’d suggest not wearing them.

Orientation

Should you record in portrait or landscape? If your video is for a portrait video platform like Instagram, Snapchat or TikTok then you should film in portrait. Otherwise, make sure your device is in landscape orientation.

If in doubt, film in landscape. It’s far easier to crop a landscape video to make it fit portrait screens than it is to make a portrait video fill landscape screens.

Check Your Appearance

Finally, before you hit record, you should check your appearance. Make sure you’re happy with how your hair looks, make sure your clothing is appropriate, and so on.

If you’re unsure of which clothing you should be wearing on camera, we have an article that might be worth reading…

What to wear on camera

…And Record!

Now it’s time to record. Hopefully you’ve planned and rehearsed what you’re going to say, so this whole process should be a breeze. Just remember, less is more if you want to keep people engaged – especially with these sorts of videos where there might not be a lot of editing to hold interest.

Once you have your footage you’ll be able to upload it to social media or use it how you please.

While a video filmed on a smartphone or webcam will never look as good as something captured by a professional setup, if your video is going to be sticking around for a while it might be worth sending it to our professional editors at Southpoint Films before you publish it. We can do touch-ups to the colour and add blurring to make it look slightly better, or we can edit it with other material to better tell your story.

Examples:

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