by Ron Sheinson, April 1, 2020
More people are communicating via video imaging. As a nerdy photographer, I offer these comments
on using a camera for displaying a speaker / head-plus shot. This was written after recently viewing
many internet presentations, from many different sources.
1. Have the lens at face height or slightly above. Many times, the lens is significantly lower (especially
when placing a smart phone or laptop close by on a desk.). The face perspective is then not so good,
including a view up the presenter’s nostrils. This can best be handled by placing the phone or laptop on
blocks or books; laptop screen NOT tilted upward.
2. Do not have the camera very close to the speaker. This distorts the face’s appearance. If you are
using a video camera, place it further away and fill the screen by using a longer focal setting on zoom
lenses. Do the same for zooming in on smart phones if you have the capability.
Be aware, the closer you are to the camera, the more your motion towards and away from the camera is
magnified. Minimize rocking back-and-forth as it can be disconcerting. Such motion to/from the mike
also causes your voice sound level to vary. A lapel or headset mike is better, but not necessary.
3. Stability. Do have your device securely positioned. Do not use a hand-held phone or video-capable
camera. Do use a tripod or accessories that allow for stable placement.
–Do not have a distracting background. The person’s image should be what the eye is drawn to.
–Do not have a background that is brighter than the person; darker is less distracting.
–If you are using a busy background, move further from it. Depending on the type of camera / lens,
you can have the person in focus with the background blurred. This provides separation and diminishes
the attention drawn to the background. You may also be able to select a digital file photograph to be
inserted as your background depending on the video program being used. Useful as your busy or messy
background will not be seen.
5. Lighting. Do have light on your face, preferably from behind the camera. Fairly even (flat) lighting
from larger diffuse sources is best and helps minimize wrinkles. Do not overexpose your face and do
not use side lighting that overexposes one side of your face or background. “burned out” areas lose detail.
For specific occasions when you want high contrast or dramatic appearances, one might want to
experiment with uneven lighting.
6. Auto-exposure. Except for high-end (expensive) video cameras and video-capable still cameras
under manual control, the automatic exposure system assumes the entire field of view is best imaged as
intensity equals gray on average. If there are bright areas, the system will turn down sensitivity
(equivalent to ‘volume’ control), resulting in your face being too dark, in extreme going to a silhouette.
Watch out for bright light in the camera field of view or uneven from the side.
These are general considerations, not hard rules. Specific circumstances can have different optimums,
depending on what you want to emphasize.
Details matter, but are not as important as content. Do not abstain from “Zooming” or creating videos.
Additional hint for head-shot photographs
Stretch (sticking) your head out (forward) looks weird from the side, but from the front it helps
minimize double chins.
Please address comments and questions to Ron Sheinson, owner, A Sheinson Image–Simcha
Photography, Silver Spring, Maryland, at firstname.lastname@example.org