10 Tips for Better Home Videos

Your video camera should not look like this.  Read our tips to see why.
  1. Think ahead and plan what you're going to shoot. If your partner has spent all night making a pair of angel wings, you'd better get a shot of them in all their glory. Similarly, zooming in on your child's woolly hat care of granny's knitting needles is a must. Get these essential shots as early as possible before your tape runs out or the tantrums start. Talking of which, ensure you have charged the battery and have at least one spare tape. When you're down to two tapes, buy some more ASAP.
  2. Be familiar with the camera. Forget about fancy effects, just learn how to make sure anti-shake and auto-focus are switched on and where the zoom lever is without looking. And force yourself to switch the camera off every time you finish shooting. The number of times I've used up a tape or battery with a close up of the lens cap...
  3. Flatter your subjects. Double chins can be reduced slightly by shooting from a higher angle and avoiding harsh overhead lighting. Even people blessed with a single chin always look better when natural and unforced so if you shoot from further away and zoom in you should get shots that everyone will be happy with. You could even use black tape to cover the red recording light on the front of the camera. You will definitely catch people looking natural but you may have a lot of explaining to do when they find out.
  4. Keep it short and sweet. Recording short snippets instead of leaving the camera running non-stop. Firstly, you are just as entitled to enjoy what's going on and you don't want to be known as the daddy who hides behind the camera, do you? Secondly, while professionals may prefer to record as much as they can and throw most of it away later, you are a dad and therefore probably short of time - are you really going to get round to editing? Even with the best intentions, the more there is to edit the more likely you are to put it off so keep it short but not so much that you miss their one-liner in the nursery play. Even if you do, it doesn't mean it didn't happen and you still have your memories anyway. At least that's what I say when I've messed up.
As harsh as it sounds, you have to forget about video gadgets.
  1. Occasionally shoot from different angles and distances. This adds interest not just for your audience but for the cameraman as well. If you're bored it will show in your video.
  2. Don't forget to include lots of close ups. Think of granny (of woolly hat fame) with her waning eyesight. In fact, think of you in a few decades time.
  3. Have as little zooming and camera motion in your video as possible. When you're filming you're thinking about the camerawork but your when audience is viewing they're thinking about the content. Having a fixed, steady shot so that they can concentrate on the angelic expressions on screen. Less zooming has the added benefit of prolonging battery life.
  4. Common advice for improving home videos often includes using a tripod and external microphone. While these will undoubtedly improve quality, I'm going to advise not using them. That's right - no tripod, no mic. You're a dad and your priority is your family. You don't want to make everyone stressed because you can't fit everything in your camera bag even though it was fine last time. You don't want to refuse your child a hug after their performance because you're hands are full. You don't want to miss those special moments because you were fiddling with a tripod or untangling wires. As harsh as it sounds, you have to forget about video gadgets.
  5. Always show your children the video afterwards. They tend to love watching themselves on television and it should make them more comfortable with being filmed again in future.
And remember, when you miss a shot because you've run out of tape or battery, it's not your fault. The real reason is that you...
  1. ...wanted to cherish your child's milestones with your own eyes rather than through a lens.
  2. ...believe that some moments are sweeter captured in memory than on film.
  3. ...did not want to risk damaging the camera with your tears.