General shooting techniques for good video

Good lighting

  1. Remember that video cameras have a harder time seeing in the dark than human eyes.  What looks like acceptable lighting to you could very likely result in grainy and dark footage from your camera.  The brighter the light you can get, the better.
  2. Try to avoid backlit situations, which the camera will have trouble reading.
  3. When taping people, try to avoid harsh shadows from strong, direct light like the sun.  They can accentuate wrinkles and create unattractive glare on faces.  Also, try to avoid direct overhead light (eyes and under-nose will be dark spots on faces, which isn’t very attractive)

Steady shots

  1. If possible, try to use a tripod for all shots.  It’s the easiest way to get steady, solid shots.
  2. When a tripod is not possible, do your best to keep the camera steady.  Using both hands on the camera, bracing your elbows against your body, keeping your feet shoulder-width apart, and leaning against a solid object can all help keep your shots steady.

Length of shots

  1. Be sure to get about 10 seconds of good, steady footage for every shot you take. The 10 seconds will seem to last forever, so count them silently to yourself.  Remember that more footage is always better than not enough once you're editing the video together.

Good framing

  1. Rule of Thirds.  The "rule of thirds" says that the best places for focal points within a frame are 1/3 of the screen in from each corner. For example, a person’s head should not be in the exact middle of the screen, but about one-third of the way down from the top and a third of the way from one of the side edges.
  2. Place the camera on-level with your subject so that you aren't shooting up at it or down at it.
  3. Remember that the final video will be shown on a screen much larger than the screen on the camera.  Stay zoomed out just a little farther than looks good on the camera screen, but make sure that the focus of the image is on the subject. 
  4. When framing people, it’s best to give them a little room in the direction they’re looking.  It helps keep them from looking like they’re boxed in.
  5. When taping speakers giving presentations, give a little extra room to allow them to move within the frame.  You don’t want them wandering out offscreen before you get a chance to move the camera after them!

Wide variety of shots

  1. It is best to get a variety of shots to use in your video.  This includes both what you record and how you record it.
    • Wide shots
    • Medium shots
    • Closeup shots
    • People
    • Signs
    • Buildings
    • Surroundings
  2. If you can't get permission to tape a person's face, you can still record relevant images by focusing on:
    • Hands
    • Feet
    • Backs
    • Shooting wide
    • Putting people out-of-focus behind or through a relevant object like a fence, sign, door, or decorative object

Take a look at this demonstration video to see examples of these kinds of privacy shots.