6 Simple Ways to Shoot Better Smartphone Videos

These days you can’t swing a USB cable around a BestBuy without hitting the latest state-of-the-art video camera. As a new father, I’ve been shooting a diaperload of baby videos starring my four-month old son Ignacio. Unfortunately, I don’t have a super fancy camera or a GoPro I can easily strap to my head to capture those extreme baby drool close-ups. I do, however, always have my iPhone 4 handy and I’ve just started learning how to cut my footage afterwards using the recently launched VideoStudio Pro X6  (plug! plug! plug!). All of which means I can create some pretty decent flicks, despite being a total video-editing noob without a slick camera.

With that in mind, I’ve been speaking to a lot of video pros here at Corel to try and get a few tips on how I can shoot better footage with my iPhone. Turns out it’s not nearly as complicated as I first thought. I give you…

6 Simple Ways to Shoot Better Smartphone Videos

1. Use Both Hands
Let’s face it: nothing makes your viewers want to projectile vomit quite like watching shaky video footage. I’m incredibly guilty of this, shooting video that I thought looked silky smooth but turns out to be more nauseating than the last five minutes of The Blair Witch Project. It turns out that the new VideoStudio Ultimate X6 does have an anti-shake feature, but one easy way to avoid this problem entirely is simply to hold your iPhone in both hands with your elbows close to your body for support. It’s not quite as good as a tripod, but using this simple two-handed technique will definitely help your audience lose themselves in your video, instead of losing their lunch.

2. Shoot like a camera, not a phone
This is another sin I’ve often been guilty of: shooting video while holding my iPhone the same way I would if I was going to make a call or launch on app. Unfortunately, this leads to the always-dreaded vertical video, which looks particularly horrible when you’re watching your finished production on a TV or monitor. The solution is simply to hold your smartphone horizontally to get the best footage, because, as this hilarious PSA shows, only you can prevent the horrors of vertical video.

3. Go for multiple shots
Even if you’re an amateur like me who’s just shooting on the fly, that doesn’t mean your video has to suck. The surefire way to have your audience snoozing is shooting the same thing continuously. Just think about it this way: professional filmmakers rarely shoot one long cut. Instead they switch to different angles to create drama and movement. That’s something that works for all videos, no matter what you’re shooting. A good rule of thumb is to keep your shots under 30 seconds. To mix things up, you can also try varying the angles. Use a wide shot to sets up the scene, and then get closer shots of your subjects. Shoot as much as you can and then don’t be afraid to cut and edit afterwards. The more you have to work with, the more interesting your final product will be.

4. Get closer!
Turns out shooting from a distance is really, really bad idea. I’ve done this a number of times, taking a shot of something in the distance and finding out that in the final footage it’s a grainy, barely-visible blob. Instead, the best way to get an interesting shot of your subject with a smartphone is to get closer. It helps to imagine that your finished video will be viewed on a much larger screen. If you can’t see what’s happening on your smartphone display, chances are it’ll look pretty crappy on the big screen too.

5. Let there be light!
Unless you happen to live in a cave, a little light never hurt anyone. There’s nothing quite as annoying as watching a shadowy video where you can barely make out what’s happening. I’ve done this on a number of occasions, shooting poorly lit videos of my son snoozing that instead looks like the second half of Zero Dark Thirty. You don’t have to be a professional lighting technician to make your videos look better. Just flick on a few bulbs around the house and you’re good to go.

6. Frame Your Shots
No one looks good being shot from a low angle. But one simple way to add depth and drama to your videos is simply to frame your shots. This means trying a variety of different close-range distances. There are close-ups, extreme close-ups, over-the-shoulder shots and even point of view shots. You don’t have to be a professional Hollywood cinematographer to get great looking footage. Just experiment and see what you can come up with. Oh and if you’re like me, turns out you can get some interesting baby shots if you come down to eye level with your little rug rat. After all, dirty diapers may come and go, but a great-looking home video will last forever.

Are you a smartphone videographer? Do you have any tips or tricks or videos you’d like to share? Post them in the comments below! 

About Adam Volk

My name is Adam and I'm a copywriter with Corel’s Marketing Department. In a past life, I've been employed as a book editor, journalist and video game screenwriter. I enjoy reading, biking and cheesy 80s action movies. I can neither confirm nor deny rumors that I am a massive nerd.
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