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Get Better Quality Video from Your Smartphone


5 Simple Rules to Sharp, Captivating Video from Your iPhone or Android Cell Phone
by Robyn Young

1. Steady!
2. ALWAYS Shoot Horizontally
3. Check Your Frame
4. Use Tap to Focus
5. Be Mindful of Audio

Our smartphones today come equipped with surprisingly good video and photo capabilities. There is stunning video footage out there taken with only a smartphone.  By following a few simple tips, you can take your videos from so-so to striking.

1. Steady!
Have you ever endured viewing a shaky, homemade video that makes you feel like you have to bob your head along with it to keep your eyes from going crossed? This is the most common mistake in taking video.

So, your smartphone doesn’t come with a tripod- it’s no excuse for shaky video. Make sure you have yourself in a stable position (if you can, get off the horse!), seated or standing. If standing, see if there’s anything nearby you can lean against for added stability. Use both hands to grip your phone, keep your elbows close to your body and you’ll see a big improvement in your footage.

You can invest in a tripod with a phone clip, but you’ll see a big difference by simply stabilizing yourself and resting your elbows on something or brace them at your sides.

2. ALWAYS Shoot Horizontally
Please, do not hold it like a cell phone! All cell phone videos should be horizontal, also called landscape. It's tempting to turn the phone upright and frame a video shot as a portrait photo, but that will be sideways when you watch it on TV or your computer! This is another very common mistake that will make your video hard to watch and can be easily avoided.

3. Check Your Frame
I can't tell you how many videos I see that feature a pink blob, creeping in from the side of the frame. Yes, the dreaded fingers in the frame! The best practice is to get in the habit of checking your frame before starting to shoot. Are your fingers in the shot? Are there trees or poles behind your subject (the also dreaded “There’s a flag growing out of his head!” issue) that clutters the shot?

Another point is checking your distance. Wide shots are great. Watching a video, taking in the gorgeous valley and trees, and there’s a dog running through the valley. No, it's galloping. No, wait! I think that’s a horse! Filling your frame with your subject gives the viewer a more intimate, accurate picture. Think about what you are seeing in your frame and imagine viewing it on a large TV. Can you tell what’s going on? Remember to get as close as you can to your subject, but leave enough room at the sides of your frame for movement.

4. Use Tap to Focus
We are so used to our cameras having auto-focus we hardly think about it. But there’s a very cool feature you should know about and use on your smartphone camera.

You can tap the screen wherever you want the focus! Doing this instantly clears up your shot, just tap the screen wherever the main subject is in the frame. But wait, not only can a screen tap adjust focus, it also samples that area you tapped for proper white balance and contrast of your subject, rather than your background or any other element on the screen.

5. Be Mindful of Audio
Poor audio can ruin a great video. The lesson I learned the hard way is to either control your audio as best you can or plan to not use it at all.

Control it by eliminating as many extraneous noises as you can (tell your buddies you are shooting, move away from or turn off devices that make background noise, don’t talk unless you are narrating the shot).

Or consider abandoning the audio altogether. A video editor can be used later to add a narrative or put it to music, and the original audio is discarded. It is amazing how a little attention to sound can make your video pop! Below is a video of one of our partner's videos, Reed Valley Ranch, before and after a minor audio adjustment:

Before audio overlay


After audio overlay



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