Looking Good in Your Online Videos: How to Frame Yourself

Video Yourself
Image courtesy of Shutterstock

In my last post for this series I talked about affordable equipment for online videos and today I’ll be talking about framing. How you “frame” yourself on camera has a powerful subconscious impact on your audience, so it is worth knowing some of the basics.  In terms of online video presentations, framing has exactly the same meaning as a picture frame on the wall, i.e. it is the rectangular border that frames the image inside it.

Headroom

Headroom is the amount of space between the top of your head and the top of the frame. Ideally, you don’t want to cut the top of your head off.  The exception is if you are filming an extreme close-up shot or full close-up (where cropping is unavoidable).  If so, then crop the frame at the top of the forehead; keeping all of your face (the expressive features) fully in the frame – as well as your neck.  Do not cut your chin off.

Another common mistake is to show far too much headroom, which wastes frame space and can be distracting.

Background

Everything in your frame is important. Check if there is anything in the background or foreground that the viewer can see which is going to distract them (remember this guy)?  Also, pay attention to what the viewer can see at the edges of your frame.  Avoid cutting things off, i.e. don’t show half of an object or half of a person (showing half of someone’s face is very unflattering).

Also, try not to cut people of at the joints – the bottom of the frame can cut across a person’s stomach or waist, but not their knees. It just doesn’t look right.

You’ve been framed

There are three broad categories of camera shots: close-up shots, medium shots, and long/full shots.

  • Close-up shots convey intimacy
  • Medium shots are social
  • Long/full shots are impersonal (generally used in films to set the scene, and not really relevant to these articles).

There are several sub-categories but I will keep things as simple as possible for the purposes of this article.

How close should you be?

Extreme close-up shots focus the viewer’s attention on a person’s feelings or reactions. For example, during interview shows like 60 Minutes, the camera will often zoom up close, making the interviewee’s face occupy the full frame.  This creates tension for the viewer – and can imply that a person is lying or guilty (whether they are or not).  Check out this sweaty interview of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

Extreme close-ups are rarely used when filming important public figures however (that’s you right?).  In western cultures the space within about 24 inches (60 cm) is felt to be an intimate zone.  Getting too close can feel invasive or claustrophobic for the viewer.

“Getting too close with a shot size can feel invasive or claustrophobic for the viewer”

If you are going to film yourself standing, the medium shot is usually recommended.  The lower frame passes through your waist; so there is space for your hand gestures to be seen.  This is how you normally see a person “in the flesh” when you are having a casual conversation. You don’t normally pay attention to their lower body, so that part of the picture is unnecessary.  My personal preference when I film myself standing is a medium close shot.

If you are going to film yourself sitting (e.g. at a desk), I recommend the frame passes through your waist. If you cut yourself off at the chest, it focuses the viewer’s attention on your chest (women please note)!  In general, I do not recommend my clients film themselves sitting – the reasons for which I will discuss in future articles.

Off-center

Rather than placing yourself in the dead center of the frame, the visual appearance is better if you appear slightly off to one side (often called “the rule of thirds”).  Artists, photographers, and filmmakers know this.

Start paying attention to TV and movies with these concepts in mind and you will begin to see clear examples of how the pros adhere to these rules.

In my next article I will talk about camera angles and the psychological effect these can have on the viewer – key things to understand if you are appearing on video and want to look good online.

Connect with me on Twitter @biancaterito where I tweet online personal branding tips and effective online video presentation techniques.

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3 thoughts on “Looking Good in Your Online Videos: How to Frame Yourself

  1. Great post. I just shot the intro to my new video series which features a lot of `impersonal’ full length on the move shots – I think it works for the style of video intro but when I’m speaking about a product or program or a business tip I like to get personal closer up. Good to read these tips as a refresher from someone who sure knows their stuff!

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