How to Shoot a Video of Yourself by Yourself

Filmmaking 08/07/2019 7 min read

As video creation becomes more of a standard in marketing and independent promotion, chances are you’ll find yourself doing some variation of one of these types of videos — sitting or standing in front of a camera on your own. 

But it can be a challenge to film yourself… by yourself. Don’t worry, though — this tutorial is packed with tips and tricks to get this right, so you can start producing your own videos with as little stress and effort as possible! Let’s get started reviewing some of the best practices to keep in mind when filming yourself. 

How to Shoot a Video of Yourself Without a Crew

1. Location

The first question is, where do you film? While technically you could film anywhere your heart desires, there are a couple of things to keep in mind: 

  • Appearance 
  • Sound 
  • Privacy

One of the first things that you should think of when choosing a place to film is how the location appears on camera. Keep in mind the style of video that you’re trying to create and try to make sure the location fits in with that vision. 

If you’re doing something simple like a sit-down vlog from home, your living room should do just fine. If you’re doing a corporate video for a business, you’re probably going to want to come up with something more professional, like a boardroom or a workplace-like building. 

Sound and privacy kind of go hand in hand. If you have people moving around and talking in your space, it’s going to be hard to capture good sound. Privacy also has the added benefit of making you feel way more at ease when you’re actually trying to deliver your lines. It’s a far easier process when you don’t have to worry about how you look to the people around you! 

Now that you’ve found your location, the next step is to set up.

2. Set Up & Lighting

Place your camera in a position where you can have the background of your preference, and where there’s a fairly consistent light source throughout your shooting. Also, place your camera around eye level instead of filming looking up or down at the camera. 

If you have no lights available to you, you may be forced to work with the sun and then bounce light off of a white sheet to help shape your scene a little bit more. If you do own any lights, try to black out the incoming light from the sun as much as possible. 

Of course, you don’t need fancy professional lights — the lights in your home can work just as well if you’re prepared to put in a little effort with reflectors and a three-point lighting setup

3. Focus 

This is one of the most challenging pieces of filming yourself by yourself — focusing. There’s not much more frustrating than shooting an entire video and realizing afterward that you were out of focus the whole time! 

So, how do you make sure that you’re in focus? 

Use a Stand-In 

Place something roughly as tall as you in the position you intend to stand (or sit, but remember, then it will need to be as tall as your sitting position). Anything will do — a plant, a piece of furniture, or a light stand (this works really well). 

Stand where you want to be and place the object right in front of your face (it can even be touching your face). When you have a subject in front of the camera, you always want their eyes to be in focus. It’s critical to get this item in line with where your eyes would be. Make sure the top of your stand-in item is roughly in line with the top of your head (whether standing or sitting). 

Although shooting at a really shallow depth of field is flashy and quite tempting, when you don’t have someone to monitor your focus, it’s a good idea to keep your f-stop a little higher instead. 

Focus on the Stand-In Object

Now, with the stand-in in place, go over to your camera and focus on the object. Most cameras can either zoom in to check your focus more accurately or come with a form of focus peaking so that you can see when you’re tac sharp. This is also a great moment to make sure that your camera’s auto-focus is turned off. You’ll want to turn this off just in case something happens during the filming that would cause it to search around for a new point. 

Once you’ve done that, grab either some tape or an object that’s going to be difficult to move accidentally. Then, mark where you want your feet to be in that shot. That way, you’re free to move around and can easily stand back in the right place. 

4. Audio 

Now that you’re in focus, the next step is to make sure that you’ve got good audio. If you have a choice, we find that it’s pretty hard to beat a good ol’ Lavalier microphone (also called a lapel mic). 

Shotgun mics are great, but if you’re on your own with no-one to monitor sound, it’s pretty easy to step outside the optimal zone of a stationary mic and then your sound quality is going to suffer. But if you’ve got a Lav, then no matter where you’re facing or what you’re doing, the mic is following you around. 

5. Final Checks 

Now that picture’s up and the sound is rolling, you might think that you’re ready to hit record. But wait! There are a couple of essential last-minute checks to do. These may sound silly, but we’ve all been caught out by one of these before! 

  • Check to see all the batteries are fresh 
  • Make sure nothing is obscuring your mic (such as hair or clothes) 
  • Check that your memory card has enough free space

Most cameras have a display to show you how much recording time is left on your card at its current quality level. Make sure you can get your filming done before this runs out. Otherwise, you’ll have to go through the process of a data transfer before coming back and picking up where you left off. If you record right next to your computer, that’s not a big deal, but if you’re filming anywhere else, it can be frustrating! 

1 or 2-Camera Set Up

If you have a second camera, you can go through the setup process again with the other camera. But if you only have one camera, then you might think that editing will be challenging because you’ll need B-roll in between every take. 

By shooting at a higher resolution, like 4K for instance, you can get away without a second angle by zooming in to manufacture the idea of a second camera. As long as you’re not completely facing a different direction, you should probably be able to get away with it without it seeming weird. 

6. Test Run 

Now you’re ready to hit the record button and start giving your first take. Don’t go for too long first up, because you want to do a test before you really start to dive into a full take. 

If any of the above isn’t quite working as expected, it’s essential to do a quick test, take out your memory card, and check to see if everything is looking and sounding right. You don’t want to forge ahead with your whole video and find out later something was off. 

Remember, this test is for video and audio. Don’t make the mistake of seeing a lovely, in-focus picture and thinking all is great! Have a quick listen to your audio, as well. You want video and sound to be working great before leaping in to do your actual recording. 

7. Record 

Now with your tests all done, it’s time to pop the memory card back in your camera and film yourself doing your thing. For some people, this can be the hardest part. Being on camera can be uncomfortable, but here are a couple of suggestions that can help out! 

Make Everything You Do Bigger! 

When you’re on camera it can feel like you’re being really expressive, but chances are you’re looking and sounding pretty… well, monotonous. For you to come across well on video, you kind of need to “go overboard” when it comes to being expressive! Trust us — it may feel awkward, but it comes out way better in the final product! 

Remembering What To Say 

How do you memorize all your lines? This is something that you might not need to if you’re recording yourself, so don’t let the idea intimidate you! 

If you’re talking about something you’re familiar with, you can just talk off the cuff, but ensure you hit the important points along the way. If you aren’t comfortable speaking with no notes whatsoever (most of us aren’t), write out a basic script and have a peek at it whenever you need to. 

Remember, you’re going to be editing this too, so if there is a moment where you need to look at your script to remember where you are, you can simply edit it out later! It is advisable to do your script on your phone or something similar, though — you don’t want the rustle of papers to feature on your audio! 

Script Planning 

It’s also a great idea to go through your script beforehand and label if there’s anywhere that you want to have B-roll. This can be moments where you might want to show a screenshot or something to back up the point you’re making. If you know you’re not going to be on-screen during that particular part, there’s no reason you can’t just read your lines straight off your script! 

For chunks of dialogue, it can be easier and less intimidating to tackle them one paragraph at a time. Keeping the camera going, simply do multiple takes of the same paragraph. The first one may be tricky, but the more you repeat the same lines, the more you’ll remember them and begin to sound natural as well. 

Once you’ve done this for all paragraphs, pick the take you like the best and cut the others out. This takes far less time than it does to start and stop the camera between every single take! 

Learning how to film yourself by yourself doesn’t need to be a scary or intimidating process! It’s just a matter of knowing the steps to take to make sure you get the best quality video you possibly can. 

If you follow the suggestions laid out here, you should be well on your way to getting more comfortable in front of the camera and producing high-quality on-screen videos! The more you do it, the easier it will become. Soon enough, it will be second nature to set up your mini studio and shoot solo!