Whether you have to record your own audition in a hurry, you're working as a one-man-band television reporter, or you're recording your own video blog, knowing how to put yourself on camera without help is an invaluable skill. If not done properly, a self-shot video can be unwatchable and unprofessional. But if you apply certain techniques—and shoot with care—you can produce quality footage on your own.
And thanks to today's camera technology, it has become easier than ever. Handheld mobile devices like smartphones and tablets easily turn into high-quality cameras, and portable, wearable cameras like the GoPro are affordable and user-friendly.
Here are a few things to know about shooting video of yourself.
1. Stick it. The less you have to do with regard to setting up a shot behind the camera, the easier it will be to concentrate on what you're doing in front of it. If you're shooting an audition or a monologue, it's best to use a tripod or mount the camera on a hard, stable surface. There are many tripod mounts available for mobile devices as well as cameras. If you're planning a moving shot, affixing the camera to your body in some way may be ideal. There are many self-mounting products available. Mounts designed for GoPro cameras are a great affordable option. Also, leave the camera settings on automatic to avoid going out of focus as you move in front of the camera.
2. Flip it. You can't be in front of and behind the camera at the same time. Luckily, most cameras, smartphones and tablets come with reversible viewfinders (whether it be an actual manual flip of a winged viewfinder on a camera or a tap on a smartphone) that allow you to see yourself in frame as you record. The easier it is for you to see yourself, the less time you'll have to spend during your shoot reviewing footage. If you're delivering a monologue, it's best to stand a few feet away from the camera. It's up to you how far, as long as most of your upper body is in the frame, especially for audition tapes.
3. Mark it. Make use of the grid function on your camera's viewfinder to help you find your mark. How you make use of this depends on what type of video you're shooting, but the “rule of thirds”—i.e. positioning your subject at the intersection of the viewfinder's gridlines—is a great guideline. It's easy and quick to set up a shot of yourself using that rule, so multiple takes don't take forever as you try to recreate your exact marks after reviewing footage.
4. Slate it. Since you have to push the record button, inevitably there will be a bit of unwanted footage as you take your mark and prepare to start action, and just before you cut. If you leave the camera recording, you will also end up with some extra footage between takes. Give yourself a little help in the editing process by cueing up the start points as you film. It will save you lots of time. Wave your hand over the camera lens between takes to separate them, or use some kind of consistent and conspicuous gesture that will be easy to see in post-production.
5. Shoot it... And review it! Hit record, and have fun with it. (Invest in a remote control to make this easier!) And always review your footage whenever possible. You're the only pair of eyes on the set! The previous four steps in this article will help ensure you get the best footage possible, but aren't a foolproof guarantee. Looking at what you've shot before you wrap is essential to catching mistakes and learning from them.
Lighting and sound are always important too in any shoot, whether you're by yourself or have a large crew. You can't really avoid the time and care it takes to set it up perfectly. But because you're by yourself, try to get ahead of it at the beginning of the shoot, and keep it simple.