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How to Frame Yourself in a Video or Photo

Updated: Jun 30, 2020

Although often subconscious, framing is the first impression someone gets when they watch your video. We take in the whole screen at once, forming an instant response to what we see. There is a cardinal rule in framing, and I see it broken all of the time. It's the "Disembodied Head" effect.


The human brain is great at "filling in the gaps." When we see half of a tree in the background of a video, our brain can figure out that there's probably another half of the tree that we just can't see. This works with people too, except for one key difference: joints. When the frame ends at a joint - wrists, elbows, knees - the brain interprets that as the rest of the limb has been cut off.

In an attempt to get close to the camera (or let's be frank: not show the rest of their body), people will frame their video or photo to be JUST their head. When the frame ends at the neck, your brain processes the image as a severed head. Even though we consciously know that this person talking to us on video has a body, our brain's subconscious is not so sure. It leaves the audience with an uneasy feeling and can send your video into the uncanny valley.

When framing your video, have the screen cut off mid-chest so we see your shoulders. Don't forget to include just a little bit of head room so you don't feel "too big" for the screen. Too much head room and you'll feel too small for the screen. With proper framing, your video will feel much more natural.


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