If you’re like a lot of people, you may spend a lot of time watching YouTube for research purposes. The video site has become a bit of a hub for anyone, anywhere, to post their opinions and self-imposed wisdom on everything, from dating advice to video game reviews to style tips. It is, to a certain degree, wonderful that anyone with a mildly decent camera can reach so many people now on their chosen topic to YouTube about.

However, with that, there can come a problem, especially to us videographers (we make a living trying to make sure we avoid these things, so forgive us for being a little too perfectionist). These are problems of the technical sort that come from the lack of knowledge of a lot of casual YouTubers when it comes to framing, lighting, etc.

Let me share a small case in point: I was going through YouTube looking for reviews on certain men’s cologne (don’t judge…I was running out). The information was great, highly informative. I was taking it in…mostly.

Until the camera automatically started refocusing and exposing for the window directly behind the subject, effectively turning the guy I was supposed to be listening to into a silhouette.

You may be reading thinking: so what. But me? My mind was blown. Two semesters of cinematography classes came screaming back through me at this highly informative but a visual waste of a video.

With that being said, here are a 5 basic tips for shooting a talking head, (aka a medium head-and-shoulder shot):

Tip 1:

As much as possible, Never shoot with a window (or any other large source of light)           behind you. Instead, position yourself so that the window light is hitting you from the side, or better yet, the front of you. We want to see you, not the brightness that is outside.

Tip 2:

Frame yourself so that your shoulders just start to cut off at the bottom of the frame, and leave a little room (we call this headroom) at the top so that your head is not cut off at the top frame. Be careful though, too much headroom will make you look like you’re sinking to the bottom frame.

Tip 3:

Another note on framing; frame yourself so that you are just a little bit off-center. This stops your talking head from looking too direct and in-your-face at the camera. This concept is called the Rule of Thirds.

Tip 4:

Be careful with moving around or gesturing too much at the camera. Remember, as a talking head, people are seeing only your head and shoulders. Throwing your hand up can look like it came off frame. Also, acting too shifty or jittery on your seat while reviewing can get distracting because everything is more emphasized in a tighter shot.

Tip 5:

If you’re shooting with a webcam, treat the camera as eye contact with the audience, not the monitor. Too many people do this, and the result when YouTubers look down at the monitor looks like the presenters lack confidence or are shifty.

That’s all that I can come up for the moment, but if any of you have other tips, please let us know.


  1. Great points. It’s tempting for the average person to produce a video on their own since so many tools are at the disposal. However, just because they’re convenient doesn’t mean they’re a good choice – especially when it comes to videos for a product or service.

    The webcam/eye contact issue particularly drives me nuts. It’s screams lack of professionalism and, as you mentioned, it does make the speaker look shifty.

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