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Know Your Angles
When filming your online videos, where the camera is placed in relation to you (the presenter) can greatly influence the way your viewers perceive you and how they interpret your message. It is important for you to know the effect of using different camera angles, so you can choose to use them in appropriate ways.
Where the camera is placed in relation to (you) can greatly influence the way your viewers perceive you and interpret your message.
A high angle shot (where the camera looks down on you) can make you look smaller or weaker if you are presenting to camera. It forces you to “look up to” the camera which diminishes your authority. It psychologically conveys that you are subservient to the viewer. It can be useful if you want the viewer to feel superior, or to feel more empathy toward the person being filmed – for example if you are making an apology.
A low angle shot (where the camera looks up at you) can make you look more powerful, authoritative, or in the extreme – threatening. It is used by filmmakers when they want the viewer to feel vulnerable and small. It is often used to portray kings, rulers, rock musicians, action heroes, and also for short actors like Al Pacino and Tom Cruise to make them look taller.
Often you will see CEO’s, thought-leaders, and public officials filmed from an angle with the camera positioned slightly below their eye level. The slight low angle puts them in a position of authority, and increases their power and importance. It directs the viewer to “look up to them” (subconsciously).
Use low angles with caution. If you are not subtle, it can appear like you are looking down your nose at the viewer. This can signal snobbery e.g. “I’m better than you,” or it can turn some viewers off by placing them in the position of feeling like a small child when they look at you.
If you want to have a neutral relationship with your viewers, then set your camera at eye level, so you are neither looking up or down. This is the way most people look at each other in casual situations (particularly in the Western world). It comes across as friendly, equal, and helps put the viewer at ease. It is the common approach used by news broadcasters, and presenters in documentary and educational videos.
Side (horizontal) angles
Intuitively, you might think that looking into the camera “front on” will show that you are a direct and confident person. This “look them straight in the eyes” approach works in normal face to face interactions. However, studies have shown that speakers on television are perceived as being “less reliable and less expert” when they speak “front on” to the camera – as opposed to those who are filmed slightly from the side.
Perhaps it is because people who face the camera front on are generally auto-cue readers (I mean news presenters), or actors fronting TV advertisements. These people stare into the screen with an unusual intensity, and viewers (perhaps subconsciously – having been exposed to so many TV commercials) are now very skeptical and cautious in their belief of people using this approach.
If you are filmed in an extreme close up (see my article “How to Frame Yourself”) and are too direct in your stare to the camera, it can make viewers feel uncomfortable.
Experts on the other hand, are usually filmed being interviewed by someone else, and are filmed on a slight angle. They direct their answers off to the side of the camera toward the interviewer. Check it out next time you are watching television, and you will see what I mean.
There are many ways to skin a possum, but you must start by knowing who your target audience is, and how you want to position yourself in their mind. For example if you are an expert, you might consider getting yourself interviewed.
You might want to angle the camera upward just slightly so the audience perceives you as being an authority, and film yourself from a slight side angle where you are directing your responses to an interviewer standing off camera.
Stay tuned for more tips to make you look good online.