Did you know the first ever documented selfie was taken in the early 1800s? No joke! Because the process to take a photo was so slow, the photographer was able to get the shot before the camera went off to capture that infamous first-ever documented self-portrait. Of course, he didn’t call it a selfie, the term selfie came much later. For example, it wasn’t around yet in the 1970s when instant cameras allowed for a new type of mainstream self-expression in the form of utilizing a mirror for a self-portrait 🙂
Believe it or not but the first time the term “selfie” was documented on the internet was just 15 years ago, by a drunk Australian dude that took a picture of himself after he fell and busted his front teeth through his lip! Though self-taken group photos have been around since the 1990s (taken with disposable cameras rather than smartphones), the term selfie was never officially hashtagged until 2011, just 6 years ago (it’s not official until it’s hashtag official)! And it skyrocketed from there: by the end of 2012 selfie was one of the biggest buzzwords of the year, even declared the word of the year in 2013 according to Oxford Dictionary (and of Australian origin). Though the term selfie was not considered mainstream until a few years ago, the act of taking selfies has been popular since the 1970s and the first front-facing camera was made by Sony Ericsson in 2003 for the purpose of self-portraits and video calls (same year Skype launched).
Now, selfies are a part of everyone’s vocabulary and people all around the world are taking selfies. A recent study came out that said an average millennial is expected to take more than 25,000 selfies in their lifetime, and the average human life expectancy is 27,375 days, SO that means an average millennial takes (almost) a selfie every single day of their life. It’s not just millennials that are comfortable taking selfies, it’s people of all ages from the very young to the very experienced (?).
My 75-year-old grandmother, for example,
sends me a selfie when she goes on a trip or has a special memory she wants to share with me. Of course, her selfie game is not quite to the point that she’d like, but it’s constantly improving and evolving. And like most (all?) people, she’s much more comfortable with her photo selfies than her video selfies.
So, now that we’re all comfortable with our photographic selfies, how can we improve our video selfie game? Here are a few tips and tricks to help you out, in no particular order:
Control for noise
If you create a video where you will be including the original audio in the final result, try to make sure there aren’t barking dogs or roaring ambulances in the background. The most noticeably amateur videos are those that include audio that shouldn’t be present.
Lighting is key
Lighting is a bit more nuanced than audio. With lighting it’s not just good or bad: there is a spectrum of lighting quality. As a rule of thumb, always make sure you avoid shadows covering your face. An easy way to ensure your face is lit up is to face the light, and sunlight is always the safest bet. Of course if you’re getting a lot of direct sunlight especially at certain times of the day, you can create a glare on your face, which makes it hard to actually see your facial features and expressions, so you’ll want to find a happy medium where there’s no shadows or glare causing a distraction on your face. Since lighting can be a little tricky you’ll want to figure out the lighting situation before you start filming. Though remember the light conditions with the sun can change, so keep an eye on the lighting and adjust as needed.
Clean your lens
Super fast and simplest on the list, but for some reason, this is the step that most people forget – keep your lenses clean, this means your phone lens as well as any additional lenses you may use. A dirty lens can make your entire video look blurry or smudged.
Put your phone in airplane mode
It’s something we don’t like to do often, but it’s worth the few minutes wait for those messages and calls in order to have an uninterrupted, high-quality video. Receiving a text or call while shooting a video can degrade the audio quality, degrade the image quality, or create a distraction that interrupts the creative process. SO, your best bet is to put your phone in airplane mode before you start shooting.
I’m sure you’ve noticed those cinematic videos that utilize camera movements and different angles. With a little practice moving your arm steadily, you can also create interesting movements, but remember to minimize camera movements unless you are doing a panning shot. And don’t actually use the digital zoom feature while recording footage. Digital zoom is more like cropping the outside portion of the frame of the video, and effectively reduces the quality and resolution of your video.
If you want to get closer to a shot using either the front or back camera, manually move your arm or actually move closer to the subject of the shot, whichever you can do more steadily. When working with camera movements, remember less is more. Stabilization technology is really helpful in minimizing unwanted shake, while at the same time allowing for pro camera movements (we’ll go over stabilization tech in more detail a little later).
Don’t forget to utilize that same selfie photo knowledge and use those known favorite angles to your advantage. If a certain angle doesn’t work well for you in a selfie photo, it’s not likely to be a good choice for video either.
Another awesome tool that opens up when you’re working with stable footage are features like slow motion and hyperspeed. The fact that the footage is stable and therefore pleasantly viewable enables use cases that would typically be too fast and wobbly, like an action shot of someone snowboarding, or too slow and bumpy like a beautiful but slow hike through the woods to be shared in a more interesting and creative way.
Resolution & FPS
Remember that the back camera on most phones has a higher resolution capability than the front-facing camera so when possible, even with selfie videos, use the back-facing camera to capture that high-resolution shot. Frames per second (“FPS”) is something you can adjust for a more professional effect depending what type of footage you’re going for. Generally, when you’re capturing fast-paced movement you’ll want to capture at a higher FPS rate as to ensure that you capture all the movements, whereas slower movements can be captured at a slower frame rate because there are fewer movements per second when the movement is slow. Pay attention, sometimes increasing the FPS or resolution can cause a drop in the other.
The right gear does not mean the most expensive gear. In fact, with less than $20 on Amazon, you will be able to get all the basic gear you’ll need to start creating cinematic quality videos.
There are a few types of lenses you can attach to your smartphone, but the ones that can enhance selfie videos are the wide-angle and fisheye lenses. The wide lens is just that, a wider version of the shot. Whereas a fisheye is a super wide lens that allows for more to be squeezed into the frame with an added effect that makes the outer portions of the frame a bit distorted, which can be used for an interesting and cinematic addition. Regardless of which of the two options you choose, you’ll be able to get more of the background in the shot, allowing for more context and more effective storytelling.
- Tripod / Selfie stick
Selfie sticks have had such a bad reputation since the very beginning, so much so that people forget to utilize them as the stabilization tool that they are. Please ignore that cringy feeling you get when you think about someone carrying around a selfie stick, and remember that the price tag for a highly rated selfie stick on Amazon is less than $10! Plus you don’t have to carry your selfie stick around, instead, use it as a tripod and capture super awesome, stable footage.
- Gimbal stabilizer
Hardware stabilizers are a bit more expensive, I found only one highly rated gimbal on Amazon under $100 with most of the highly rated stabilizers being well over $100, making this a professional and not a basic tool. Hardware stabilizers are great for transient or moving footage, like those pro-looking panning shots, so if you have the funds this can be a great investment.
- Ego Cam
The Ego Cam App is a great substitute or addition to a hardware stabilizer. Ego Cam provides a face-specific stabilization, which is a type of stabilization (perfect for selfie vids) that so far has only been included in hardware stabilizers over the $200 price range (not the ones mentioned above). Meaning that up until now these top-of-the-line gimbals have been the ONLY way to track and stabilize a main subject throughout the video. Now, with the Ego Cam app you can stabilize your selfie videos with this same professional precision but absolutely free. Ego Cam comes with the bonus feature that you don’t get with Gimbals in that you can stabilize an existing video, meaning you can use existing footage or whatever camera app you typically use in your flow and run that footage through the Ego Cam selfie stabilizer for instantly pro footage.
Whether you stabilize with Ego Cam in real-time or with the post-processing import function, in just 1-tap you can use the Ego Beats feature to automatically create cinematic quality music videos and instantly improve your selfie video game. Or you can speed up or slow down your super stable selfie footage, whatever intrigues your creative side 😉 The main thing to remember is to have fun with it, and that not everything is right or wrong, there’s huge room for applying your artistic side and ultimately that’s what a great selfie game is all about – creativity and self-expression!
For a chance to be featured on our website please download Ego Cam in the App Store and share videos you make by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org 🙂