We’ve created this tutorial with expert secrets to help you make better videos for social media. Making compelling videos for social media can seem like a difficult task. No worries, we’re here to help you start building an audience for your brand through video marketing. These are the techniques that we use to create great looking shots that keep people watching.
We’ve broken it down into three main categories. Setting up the camera. Setting up lighting. Positioning and preparing the talent. For each one, we’ll cover the basics, assuming you only have access to your phone and simple light sources. Then we’ll have an “Expert Tips” section if you want to take your shots to the next level. Let’s get started!
SETTING UP THE CAMERA
Modern mobile phones can produce nice video results. If you don’t have access to a video camera, the phone in your pocket will work just fine. Follow these tips to make sure your next social media video looks and sounds great.
- Shoot into room corners if possible. This adds depth and leading lines that focus on the person in front of the camera.
- Place camera as far away from the corner as possible to create depth.
- Orient your camera vertically for content meant for TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook. Orient horizontally for Youtube content.
- Mount your phone or camera on a tripod, or set it on a stable platform at eye level. There are lots of phone tripod mounts you can order from Amazon for under $10. Our recommendation is linked below.
- Set it to the highest resolution possible. Many modern phones and cameras can record in 4k resolution.
- Set your camera frame rate to 30fps (frames per second) or 24fps. 24fps will give you a more “cinematic” feel because that is what Hollywood movies are shot in. 30fps is standard for most social media platforms and TV broadcasts like sports and news.
- Set your DSLR or Mirrorless camera to it’s native ISO for the cleanest image. Consult your user manual to know what that number is for your camera. ie. A Canon EOS R has a native ISO of 400. A Sony A7iii has a native ISO of 800.
- Set your shutter speed to double what your framerate is. That means a shutter speed of 1/60 sec for 30fps and 1/50 sec for 24fps. This will ensure a natural look and motion blur like moving hands. For mobile phones, this is done automatically.
- Set your f-stop (aperture) to the lowest number your lens is capable of. Usually from f 2.8 – f 5.6. This will help blur the background.
- Set your focal length on your camera lens to between 45mm – 70mm to get that blurry background look. You’ll need to be further away from the camera in order to get a medium shot.
- Use a LAV mic for better sound quality. (recommendations below)
- PHONE ADAPTER – Ulanzi ST-02S Aluminum Phone Tripod Mount. Buy at Amazon
- RECOMMENDED TRIPOD – A beefier, more durable tripod. Manfrotto Element Traveller Small Aluminum Tripod Kit with Ball Head. Buy at Amazon
- BUDGET TRIPOD – Get the job done on the cheap tripod. Amazon Basics 50-Inch Lightweight Tripod. Buy at Amazon
- BUDGET CAMERA – If you want to use something awesome, other than your mobile phone. Canon EOS R10 w/RF-S18-45mm Lens. Buy at Amazon
- RECOMMENDED LAV MIC – Rode Wireless Go. Buy at Amazon
- BUDGET LAV MIC – Saramonic LavMicro. Buy at Amazon
SETTING UP LIGHTING
Lighting is the most important element that will make or break the look of your video. Follow these tips to ensure your talent looks their best.
- Turn off all lights in the room where you’ll be filming. They create poor light color and create unflattering shadows on the face.
- Set “key” light at a 45º angle in front of and to the side of the talent (see diagram). Position the light slightly elevated above your talent’s face. This will cast a shadow along the jawline and give it a more defined look.
- Use a lamp if you don’t have access to lighting equipment. Leave the lamp shade on. It will diffuse the light and offer a softer, more flattering appearance on the face. A window also makes an excellent soft key light source. Position your talent to the side of the window and at an angle so that the light fills one side of the face and spills onto part of the other side while leaving a shadow on the very opposite side of the head. If you use a window, be mindful of changing lighting as the day progresses. Especially with longer recording times.
- Make sure to have a “catch light” in both eyes. A catch light is the light reflection you can see in the talent’s eyes. Move the light (remembering to keep it at approximately 45º) until you see the reflection of it in your talent’s eyes.
- Add a “hair light” by setting a second light source behind and above your talent. This will offer contrast and separation by creating an effect called “rim light”.
- Turn on one or more “practical” light sources in the background. These can be lamps, LED’s, or other small device lights. These will add visual interest and help create a light, dark, light pattern that creates more depth.
- For extra soft and pleasing light, add a layer of diffusion in front of your light source. A budget way of doing this would be to use a white sheet or translucent shower curtain.
- BUDGET KEY LIGHT – Mount Dog LED Softbox. Buy at Amazon
- RECOMMENDED KEY LIGHT – Amaran 60d Cob Light. Buy at Amazon
- RECOMMENDED SOFT BOX – Aputure Light Box 4545. Buy at Amazon
- RECOMMENDED LIGHT STAND – Impact Air-Cushioned Heavy Duty Light Stand. Buy at Amazon
PREPARING THE TALENT
Now that we have the camera and the light set up, it’s time to prepare and position the person that will be on camera, or what we call “The Talent”. These expert secrets will make sure that your talent will look their best in your upcoming social media videos.
- Position yourself (if you are the one in the video) or your talent in front of the camera at a distance that creates what’s called a medium shot. This is a shot that begins around the navel and ends just above the head.
- For mobile phones this means standing approximately 3-4 ft. in front of the camera. If you have a video camera it will depend on the focal length of your lens. A small focal range around 24 mm-35 mm will require you to be closer, whereas a longer focal range of 50 mm-70 mm will require you to be further away.
- Leave around 3 inches of headroom between the top of your frame and the talent’s head. This will likely require you to slightly tilt your phone or camera downward.
- Wear a color that offers good contrast from your background. Usually avoid wearing white. Avoid wearing small patterns like small stripes or checkered patterns. They give off a moire effect that can be distracting. Solid colors are always a good choice.
- Wearing layers can help add a richness to the image. This can be in the form of a jacket, cardigan, jewelry, etc.
- Avoid any products that will make your skin appear shiny or greasy. You want a nice matte look to your skin. Glossy lips for women is fine. Apply a powder-based shine inhibitor or other mattifying makeup to reduce shine.
- Always look into the camera lens. Remember, you are speaking directly to the audience, so don’t be looking around.
- For short-form videos, do multiple takes. It doesn’t hurt to do a “dry run” in front of the camera to get comfortable before you film for real.
It may seem overwhelming at first, but if you follow these expert secrets your social media videos will look better than ever. Most importantly, just get out and do it!