Look good on office videos

Recording an office video at short notice and looking good on camera are not mutually exclusive says Julian Mather.

You’ve been asked to record a quick video on your smartphone to invite everyone to the office party. You exhaust your twenty-seven excuses why you can’t. You reluctantly accept, tie your hair back and put a bit of lippy on—and this is where it all goes wrong. It can be confusing. You take on the roles of lighting director, cameraperson, sound recordist, script editor, makeup and hair, and worst of all: self-critic. You are under-qualified for all of these roles, especially self-critic. A good video is determined by our audience, not us.

Follow these simple steps and you’ll be on your way to being a one-minute movie star

The 720 filter

Your smartphone has video quality settings. They are referred to as Video Resolution. You’ll see them written as:

  • 4K (think of this as super sharp quality)
  • 1080p (think of this as really good quality)
  • 720p (think of this as not bad quality)

Just remember that the better the quality, the sharper the picture, the more we see your wrinkles. So choosing the lower quality 720p setting might be kinder on you.

Soft light

The simplest way to light yourself in a flattering way is to face a window so you are looking out and the position of your phone is in front of the window looking back at you. Because the windows are a broad flat source of light they generally cast a soft light over you.

Another soft light source if you can’t get to your window is your desktop computer screen. Open up a blank document and size it so it covers full screen. Go into your display settings and look for the setting that controls the colour of your screen’s light. Your computer is a naturally a coolish blue light. You may prefer to slide the control to make it yellower and warmer. You’ll be able to decide what works best for you when looking at your shot.

We all know that soft light is the most flattering, right? Not so fast. That’s simply not true. Hard light used well is movie starlight. Search for Horst P. Horst, the 20th-century photographer of the stars. He almost exclusively used hard light.

The glamour light

Start hunting around your office for desk lamps. You only need one. Test and try a few. You are going to place it directly above your smartphone lens or directly above your webcam. Have it about a hand span higher the lens.

If it is shining in your eyes then that is a good sign that it is working well. You don’t hear film and stage actors complaining about the lights in their eyes. They understand that it is working for them. In portraiture, a light placed like this is known as a glamour light. It flattens out lumps and bumps.

Lord of the rings

Beware the ring light. This glamour light is very popular with make-up bloggers and Youtubers. Often called a Vanity Light, it’s a circular ring shape that allows the camera to be placed inside the circle. The result is the softest flattest light you can get plus the eyeballs reflect the white circle giving a slightly mesmerising look.

This is a problem for business: You may look the best you have in a while but your audience will be focused on your eyes trying to make sense of the engaging but sort of weird circles in your eyes. If they are doing that then they are not listening to your content. Remember that in video distractions dilute your message.

Check this one last thing

Have a quick look up and check that you aren’t sitting directly below a ceiling downlight. The overhead light casts black shadows across your eye sockets and you look like Boris Karloff in Frankenstein.

Julian Mather is a world-class videographer with clients like ABC TV, BBC and National Geographic. The only camera he now owns is a smartphone. He introduces businesses struggling to use video to simple 21st Century video business building strategies. www.julianmather.com