The Best Way to Shoot a Video by Yourself
December 12, 2019
If you’re a video producer or marketer, you know how hard it can be to make a video by yourself. How do I set up my camera? How do I make sure the shot’s in focus? How do I not sound flat on camera? These are all tricky questions that can stop you from creating your next piece of content. You have the idea, but you just need to know how to do it yourself in the best way possible. So let’s jump in!
First things first: you need somewhere to shoot. Ideally, you’ll want a quiet room where you can close the door and set up camera gear, but you can do this just about anywhere.
You don’t need a studio environment — in fact, it can add a little personality to your video if the scene looks homey. For example, a couch and plant combination? Perfect! A cozy nook? Great! In front of a bookshelf? You’d better believe it!
Take a minute before you break out the gear to do a little set dressing. Remove anything that’s distracting, and rearrange the scene to help improve the overall shot. And if you’re looking to create a permanent space for your solo videos, consider choosing a room where you can control the light. That way, you’ll have a consistent look throughout all of your videos.
Here’s what I’ve found works best when shooting a video solo:
- Wide lens (like a 24mm)
- Audio recorder
- External monitor
- Daylight-balanced key lights
Bonus tip! If you have a DSLR that has face detection autofocus, you’re in luck. What’s that? It’s the tech that allows the camera to focus on your face while you move closer and farther away. This is one feature that’ll make it incredibly easy to shoot videos all by yourself.
If you’re looking to get into shooting more videos solo, check out DSLRs that have this feature built-in, like the Canon 5D Mark IV or the 6D Mark II. The good news is you don’t need either of these cameras to shoot a video by yourself, so you can always use the camera and setup you already have.
That all sounds great, but how do I make sure my shot looks good if I can’t see the screen? Good question! For the best results shooting solo, you’ll need one of the following:
- A camera with a flip-out screen
- An external monitor
- A camera with WiFi to monitor the shot on your phone
Any of these options will work just fine, but maybe you’re thinking, Geez, I don’t have any of this stuff. What am I going to do?
Don’t panic just yet! Do you have an extra display for your laptop? Use it! Plug your screen right into your camera and fire up that preview — it’ll work just as well. Remember, all you’re looking for here is a way to see your shot and make sure it’s in focus.
You have your background, you have your gear, and now you’re ready to set up your shot. When you’re prepping to shoot a video by yourself, consider sitting down. Why? Well for one, you’re likely not in a studio environment, so it’s not crucial that you’re standing.
Optimize for what you prefer. You’re the one shooting, and you’re the talent in the video. If it’s easier to show your script on a laptop on a desk in front of you, do it!
Grab a chair and something to put your laptop on, like a small desk or stand. Next, place your camera on a tripod and position it about an arm’s length away from you.
As for camera placement, think of it as the same for any other video. You’ll want to position the camera just above your eyeline, slightly pointed down.
Since your camera is so close, you can get away with attaching your mic directly to the shoe mount of your camera. So grab your shotgun microphone, plug it into an audio recorder, then take the line out of the audio recorder and run it into your camera.
Next, grab your lights. Place them on either side of your camera just above your eyeline, and dial in the brightness. Any daylight-balanced key lights will do — you’re just looking for soft, flattering light. At the end of the day, it’s all about what kind of aesthetic you personally prefer, so experiment and try something new!
Now that you’re all set up, roll off a bit of footage just to make sure everything looks and sounds great. Pop that SD card into your computer, and check out your shot. If you need to, make any last-minute adjustments to your audio and video settings. Since you’re shooting by yourself, this step is critical before you dive into your script.
Whether you’re shooting an off-the-cuff, unscripted jump cut-style video, or a more carefully planned video with a script and spots for B-roll, here are a few things to keep in mind:
Pump yourself up! You’re the only person in the room, and there’s no director. In order to avoid sounding flat on camera, get hyped with your favorite track, take a lap around the room, or if all else fails, just shake it out and get loose.
If you have a good take, mark it! Since you’re the video producer, that means you’re in charge of the edit, too. Cover the lens with your hand after you feel like you got a good take so you’ll know exactly where the best takes are in your edit.
Only record what you need. Don’t let the camera continue to roll from line to line. Do a few takes in a row, then stop the clip. This will help immensely when you’re knee-deep in the editing process.
Take advantage of remote recording. A lot of DSLRs have WiFi built-in and the ability to record remotely from an app or browser. This is huge, especially for shooting solo. You get a preview of your shot and are able to quickly start and stop recording between takes. Check to see if your camera has a remote app, download it, and start remote recording! It will literally change your life.
That’s it! You’re now primed and ready to make a video all by yourself. And remember, if things start to feel weird, try not to take it too seriously. You’ve got this!