Tips for Shooting and Sharing Family Videos

Home movies date almost to the dawn of movies themselves. Unlike in the days of film, today's family videographer can choose from multiple technologies to capture HD footage of priceless occasions, whether they occur on birthdays and at holiday get-togethers or on an otherwise ordinary day. Select your equipment with an eye to the kinds of occasions you plan to shoot, and keep pro video quality in mind as you record.

Choosing Technologies

Photographers and videographers Kara and Jeremy Choate of Choate House recommend preserving the small moments that tell your family's story. "Bath time with the kiddos, waking up, bedtime rituals, cooking dinner together are all moments we often take for granted," they point out. "Before we realize, our little ones are grown and we've missed the chance to record the smaller everyday experiences we crave to remember the most."

Use your smartphone or tablet device to shoot moments you'd otherwise lose forever. Your camcorder may offer greater video flexibility, but if you have to choose between missing the moment and substituting an alternate technology, always go for the moment. Choose your gear thoughtfully when you can, selecting a camcorder designed for active use when you shoot in the elements or at sporting events. "A sports/POV camcorder is best for high action activity, especially if the person shooting is in motion," the Choates say. "It's also preferred when water or other elements could damage regular gear."

Technique & Viewpoint

To take great home movies, work on improving your video technique. "The biggest mistakes we see are poor use of natural lighting, lack of a stable hold on the camcorder and shot framing," say the Choates. Stiffening your body and holding your breath doesn't improve the stability of your shot. Instead, hold your arms close to your torso and keep your knees loosely bent to serve as shock absorbers. If your camcorder features a shake-reducing image stabilizer, turn it on full time unless you mount your hardware to a tripod.

Look for sunny scenes, but avoid those that place the sun directly behind your subject so you're not shooting into the light, blowing out your shot in the glare. To capture your child's world, put the camera at your child's eye level. Unless your children have reached their teenage years, their point of view falls many inches below yours. Include your animals to show the full spectrum of family life. "We feel pets should be included in videos as life truly happens," the Choates say. "Videos are best when families show their true lifestyle."

Archiving & Editing

Just because you strive to capture every first and milestone doesn't mean you should share all your unedited footage with family audiences or the world. "Shorter recording time is likely to be watched more than lengthy reels," the Choates point out. Archive every minute: Unlike film, the digital files that contain your footage lack a tangible form, and if you fail to back them up, you lose access to them.

If your camcorder includes wireless access to your computer and other devices, you can back up the raw footage before you get home from a day in the park or a party at Grandma's. Otherwise, take the time to insert your memory cards into your computer—or a USB card reader, if your system lacks the necessary device slots—and copy the video files to your hard drive. After you make backup copies, open the editing application that came with your video equipment and create a highlight reel that contains the most important moments from your footage.

Sharing Footage

Some digital camcorders can share footage directly to social media websites. Online video sharing enables you to make your footage available to your entire family quickly. When you evaluate video-sharing websites, look for one that's "user friendly with many simple ways to email and share links on all social media channels and by mobile devices," as the Choates say in describing their favorite sharing resource. On your desktop or notebook computer, you can also burn DVDs to give as gifts or send through the mail. At family get-togethers, use wireless access to screen your movies directly from your computer or tablet to an HDTV and home theater system, for playback on a big, bright screen and multispeaker surround sound.

Photo Credits: Shauna Hundeby/DemandMedia

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