Many people ask me if I hate seeing myself on camera, and my answer is always the same - it depends on the lighting!. It’s simply amazing how different the same person can look with various lighting and angles. In my video business, getting a flattering shot of my clients is paramount.

During a recent one day workshop presented by the Atlanta Internet Video Marketing Association, Gustav Wilde of Cogito Creative spoke about lighting and angles. He really just had time for the basics, but hopefully this information will be as helpful to you as it was to me.

3 Basic Camera Angles: Eye, Low, High

First, let’s talk about angles. Basically, there are three common camera angles used in the production of video:

  • Eye level
  • High angle
  • Low angle

Eye level is what’s almost always used in corporate video production. It’s considered neutral and is more flattering than either low or high. It’s also very corporate, and adds little drama to the shoot. It’s the kind of angle you see on the news and romantic comedies.

High angle is shooting down on a person or having the camera significantly higher. Wilde states that this can give the subject a weak or childlike look. This is used in the film industry to illicit that effect.

Low Angle: On the other hand, having the camera significantly lower than the subject and therefore “looking up” at the person creates an intimidating or foreboding look.

“If you shoot from a low angle, the character looks like almost like a giant. The low angle makes the subject look dominant,” said Wilde. He recommends this angle if you are looking to create a character who seems powerful and aggressive. Once again, the high or low angles are perfect for the film industry when your purpose is to influence or manipulate how the audience views the subject.

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According to Wilde, sticking with eye level is best when focusing on a flattering look for your subject. That said, I have found from personal experience that a slightly - not significantly - raised camera can be flattering to many people. I have a very thin face, and if the camera is a little higher, it tends to keep my face from looking too boney.

I have also seen a slightly raised camera improve the look of a person who has a really round face or a double chin. If your camera is even slightly positioned looking up at a person with a large neck or very thin face, it can be really unflattering. For more information and to see a demonstration on these angles, click below to watch a portion of Wilde’s presentation.

Lighting Basics: Backlights, Key Lights, Fill Lights

Wilde, who studied film at the University of North Carolina, encouraged the audience to realize the significance of camera lighting and learn as much as possible about it. He confirmed that “lighting is literally everything. What the camera does is records light. The only thing the camera picks up is light.”

Wilde recommends three point lighting for video production shooting. He says you’ll need a backlight, a key light, and a fill light:

  • Backlights: The backlight gives a pleasing depth to the shot and separates your subject from the background. It should be placed behind the subject and should provide light on the head and shoulders.
    The key light is exactly that, the main light. It should provide the dominant lighting for the subject.
  • The Fill Light is a supporting light for the key light. It’s usually mirrors the key light at a lower intensity and “fills in” the shadows created by the key light.
  • Key Lights: These are the main lights used to film the subject of the video.
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As far as using the key and fill lights together, your set up really depends on what you want to accomplish. If you want a dramatic appearance Wilde advises having the key light at a greater intensity to your fill light. “This is a nice set up when you want contrast and drama.”

But, if you really want a flattering shot, and you do when shooting corporate videos, Wilde has some great tips for beauty or glamour lighting. He advises using your key and fill lights at roughly the same intensity and creating a nice even look across the subject’s face avoiding shadows altogether. Wilde advised, “for an actress talking about her film, use the glamour or beauty lighting set up.” He says a ring light is a great tool for a beauty shoot because it provides even lighting straight from the direction of the camera lens. It avoids shadows completely. Gus advises, “make sure the light is diffused and even across the face.”

For more information and a demonstration about lighting, click the link below to see an edited version of Wilde’s presentation.

Hopefully, these tips will help you create more flattering interviews with your corporate clients. If your main focus is corporate video, giving your subjects the best possible appearance will help your bottom line. Just remember, use eye level angles and if the shot is not flattering, try raising the camera just slightly.

For the best lighting look, use three point lighting using a diffused key light directly where your subject is looking and your fill light should only help to evenly distribute the lighting, not create shadows. If you have just two lights, make sure your diffused light is directly in front of the subject for the most flattering appearance.