Since its debut, the iPhone has earned a reputation for bringing amazing photography capabilities to the average smartphone user. That’s true for videography, too.
But if you’ve used an iPhone to shoot video clips, you know that it can be harder than it looks. Particularly if you compare your randomly shot clips with professional-grade footage. Luckily, there are a wide range of things you can do to boost your video-recording game, from using external instruments to simply changing certain settings.
- Guide to Editing Video on Your iPhone
- How to Use the new Photos and Camera Apps in iOS 11
- How to Edit Live Photos on your iPhone
Here are our top tips for better iPhone video.
Know Your Goal
Before shooting better video, it’s important to keep your end goal in mind. For many casual smartphone users taking video clips of their children, funny events or everyday occurrences, a lot of these tips could be a bit over the top.
But if you’re making a video for public or even semi-public consumption, it pays to put in some effort in learning how to shoot video well.
Similarly, if you’re shooting a video that might end up in a digital “photo” album, or otherwise passed down through subsequent generations, it might be smart to keep these tips in mind as well.
Before You Begin
Before you even start shooting videos on your iPhone, it’s smart to prepare a few things in advance — if you can.
Sure, you might not have a chance to prepare for an impromptu video session. But in the event that you know you’re going to be taking a lot of videos, try to take care of the following beforehand.
Prep Your Video Shoot
- Turn on Do Not Disturb. Or, better yet, Airplane Mode. You don’t want to ruin a perfect shot with a random notification, call or text message.
- Consider using a gimbal or a tripod. Nothing screams amateur videography like shaky footage. If you must shoot free-hand, try tucking your elbows into your sides. For the daring, you can even attempt to hold your breath throughout the shot.
- Set your video quality. This may not be that well-known, but you can tweak the resolution and frames-per-second of your iPhone’s video recording. It’s under Settings > Photos & Camera > Record Video.
- Pack an external battery. Sure, your shiny new iPhone might get better battery life than previous devices, but shooting video is still a battery life killer.
- Be mindful of storage space. Videos, especially higher-definition ones, can eat up your iPhone’s internal storage. Make sure you have enough space for the amount of video you want to shoot, and if you don’t, open up more space on your device in advanced.
- Try using a third-party app. This is strictly necessary, but there are a slew of camera apps on the App Store that do a better job than Apple’s native Camera. Most of them include finer control over a wider range of settings and capabilities.
Ask any videographer what the most important aspect of their art is, and most of them will probably say lighting. Indeed, good lighting really does separate the home video from the professionally shot film.
Of course, a lot of that professional look is achieved through the use of rather expensive and cumbersome off-camera lighting equipment. That’s not convenient or practical for the average iPhone user. Despite that, there are still some good lighting tips to keep in mind.
Get The Right Light
- Ensure you have good outdoor lighting. The best natural lighting from the sun occurs shortly after sunrise and shortly before sunset. If you’re taking video of a subject during the brightest parts of the day, try to position the subject so that the sunlight isn’t casting harsh shadows on their features.
- Getting proper lighting indoors can be tricky. Your iPhone’s built-in flash doesn’t do a good job of lighting your subject. If you don’t want to invest in off-camera lighting (or improvise your own), try shooting using the light from a nearby window and use the sunlight.
In addition to lighting, a video’s audio quality is also a sure indication of its professionally (or lack thereof).
Like lighting, the absolute best option is to opt for an external solution. But, since that isn’t always the case, there are other options available.
Pay Attention to Sound
- Use an external iPhone microphone. If good audio quality is a priority for you, there are few options that can match a good external mic. Of course, external microphones can be cost prohibitive. And they certainly aren’t the most convenient to pack around with you daily. So, again, know your audience.
- Get closer to your subject. This is key for videos of a person talking. The iPhone’s microphone isn’t the best at picking up directional noise, so if you’re shooting video in a loud place, that ambient background noise can easily drown out a voice.
- Use another device to record audio. If you have one around, you can try using another iOS or even Android device to record audio. Just place the secondary device much closer to the subject, and use a video editing app to combine the audio track and video. Try using a clap as a point to help you synchronize them.
Additional Tips While Shooting
- Shoot in landscape mode. This may seem a bit obvious to some, but it’s pretty critical — so it warrants a mention. There are exceptions, but in general, shooting in landscape mode will prevent a video with black bars on either side.
- Don’t use digital zoom. If you have an iPhone with a dual-lens camera (iPhone 8 or 7 Plus, or an iPhone X), you can get away with zoomed-in shots. Other iPhones use optical zoom, which will result in substantially grainier videos.
- Use the exposure lock. The iPhone’s automatic exposure and focus are great, but they aren’t perfect. For videos of one subject talking to the camera, for example, they can cause jittery-looking clips as the device constantly readjusts. Thankfully, you can lock the focus and exposure in the Camera app by simply tapping and holding on the subject.
- Use a grid and the Rules of Third. This is basic video composition, but it helps. Turn on the grid in your camera app (for the native app, that’s under Settings > Photos & Camera > Grid). Keep the subject or focus of your video out of the center grid for more interesting shots.
Mike is a freelance journalist from San Diego, California.
While he primarily covers Apple and consumer technology, he has past experience writing about public safety, local government, and education for a variety of publications.
He’s worn quite a few hats in the journalism field, including writer, editor, and news designer.