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5 tips for shooting great video on iPhone

Mikkel Westphal Stephensen

5 tips for shooting great video on iPhone

You CAN get great video shots on an iPhone or any modern smartphone. Just ask the crew behind the Sundance favorite of 2015, Tangerine. All of it was filmed on an iPhone 5S. A lot has changed since 2015 - for the better. The iPhone is more and more capable. The model 7 records in 4K and the 7+ has two lenses so you for once can do actual zoom. The photos and videos in this tutorial are all from handheld shots on iPhone. 

So what's the best way of getting great shots out of your smartphone? Here are five tips.

1. Steady, steady, steady

Shaky shots suck! Okay, not in a movie like Cloverfield, where they used handheld camera to its fullest extent. But that's mainly because they had advanced software and an alien wandering the streets of Manhattan. In real life, shaky camera is usually something you'd like to avoid. 

You can do this by stabilizing your smartphone. First of all don't hold your iPhone with two hands. Use your pinky to support the camera, put your index finger on top and your middle and ring fingers on the back of your iPhone.
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To keep it even more steady try placing your free hand underneath your elbow. It helps supporting your arm and minimzing camera shaking.

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Don't squeeze your elbow. It's not a stress ball. Just gently support it.

Checklist:

  • Make sure your grip feels steady.
  • Use your arm as support or rest your elbow/forarm on a surface.

2. Control and adjust exposure

Exposure is crucial. Ask any photographer or videographer. Here's an example of the difference between wrong and right exposure.


It's shot on the iPhone and the only difference between the first and last part is the exposure. Now, the iPhone doesn't give you any zebras which would make exposure pretty simple. So the best tool to fix exposure is by using that 20-20 vision of yours (okay, it doesn't have to be 20-20). 

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Checklist:

  • Tap the screen where the focal point should be? Here it's Sara who's in the center of the frame, surounded by the Byrd. 
  • When you tap the screen, you can adjust the exposure by sliding the cursor up and down. Adjust until it looks right. 

3. Pan with caution

To do handheld pan shots is outright dangerous. Not "jumping-from-a-59m-cliff-into-cold-water"-dangerous though. And if you don't put in a little effort it's just stupid. Not "doing-a-belly-flop-on-an-ice-covered-pool"-stupid though.

As a rule of thumb try keeping the camera fixed on your subjects for at least 4-5 seconds before panning. That makes it easier to edit afterwards - and from our experience this gives you a much higher chance of selling your work. Take a look at the difference here (this video could definetly use some better lighting, but you gotta work with what you have):

 

Checklist:

  • Keep your camera still at least 4-5 seconds at the time. It makes editing the footage much easier.
  • Avoid panning if you need to modify exposure in between.

4. Don't zoom unless you have to

To zoom or not to zoom, that is the question, as the original line in Hamlet was (It wasn't). Except for the iPhone 7+, the only way to zoom on an iPhone is digital zoom. Digital zoom means enlarging the pixels and thus coming closer to the subject. Unlike optical zoom where you actually have a magnifing piece of glass so you don't lose image quality.
 
Don't fall for the temptation of digital zoom. Be strong. Like when you are taking photos, you should always zoom with your feet. You will get better results!

 

Checklist:

  • If you need to get closer, do so by walking.
  • If you have to use zoom, it's crucial to support your arm. It's much easier to get a shaky image when you're zoomed in.

5. Fit the frame

Framing is about how you position your subject within the frame. You want to help the viewer by positioning your subject so it's natural for anyone to look there. The rule of thirds helps you out a lot. You can read more about this rule by clicking here.

Here is an example of bad framing and good framing. The scene is extremely intense, so try to keep up. SPOILER: Kristina is working, typing on her keyboard WHILE LOOKING AT HER SCREEN. So yeah, some pretty amazing footage.

 

What you want to notice here is how Kristina is in the top right intersection of the frame and her screen in the bottom right. That gives the viewer a natural order of interpreting the footage.

Checklist:

  • Use the grid. Every decent video-application has that feature. Know the rule of thirds
  • Focus on one subject or object. Don't clam to much in one frame. It will look messy.


Alright, that's it for now. Thanks for reading. If you have any comments or questions, send me an email or find us  on facebook and on twitter.

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