Tips for Shooting Professional Looking Video With Your Smartphone

Image of Julie Rasdorf
Julie Rasdorf

Technology is advancing and so are our "smartphone production" capabilities! Do you know how to take professional-looking videos with your smartphone?

A Changing Landscape

In the ever-changing world of Video Production we are always searching for the best way to improve our efficiencies. Equipment has gotten smaller, more portable and in some cases even more affordable which has increased the number of people out there trying to be a video professional. Both iPhone and Android have created it’s own level of craziness in the video world as everyone with an iPhone now thinks they can shoot a professional video.

This trend has even pushed into the corporate video world as clients are constantly searching for ways to create content “faster” and “cheaper”. When clients ask me about the possibility of shooting their video with an iPhone, I usually caution them on some of the risks associated with these shoots. iPhone productions won’t look the same as a bigger budget video shoot with DSLR Cameras or Professional Audio mixers etc. However, if you pay close attention to the details when shooting with your phone, you can capture a nice video.


How to produce a professional looking video with your smart phone:


1. Choose the right location

Before you begin shooting anything, the first thing to think about is your location. You want a nice looking spot that isn’t going to cause you any problems once you begin. If indoors, make sure your location is well lit. You want to be able to see your subject’s face, since I doubt you brought along any fancy lighting. Simple/plain backgrounds are often your best bet. An office or conference room usually works well as these are good places free from distractions or background noise. Make sure your subject does not sit with their back to any bright windows, as you will make their face dark and hard to see without proper lighting. Finally, remember to close doors and ask people working in adjoining areas to be as quiet as possible. After all, you are making a movie! If shooting outdoors, beauty is nice but pay attention to any ambient noise or shadows. Ocean waves or trees blowing behind you might look great, but if you can’t hear what your subject is saying because the background is too loud it defeats the purpose.


2. Position the phone properly

When shooting your video, it is important to first make sure you position the phone in the right way. The widescreen view has taken over almost every device. Laptops, televisions, iPads, and your website are all examples of places where a vertical video probably won't look great. You will want to make sure you shoot horizontally or “Landscape” instead of “Portrait” style. Another tip when shooting would be to leave some space around your subject so you have some room to add in graphics or images in editing. If your subject is looking off camera like in an interview, always remember to leave room in front of them. In film terms you would say you were “Leading” your subject. Also when getting ready to shoot, make sure your device is set to a 16 x 9 aspect ratio and HD recording. The file setting should be either .mp4 or .mov format.


3. Take audio quality into consideration

Once you are ready to shoot, the subject should be as close to the recording device as possible. Because you are using the recording device’s microphone…the greater the distance to the subject… the greater the amount of ambient noise. Too much distance may make the recording unusable. Prior to speaking, have the subject hold for about 2 seconds…then cue them to start. When the subject has finished, they should hold and stay looking/smiling at the camera for about 2 seconds. Doing these last 2 steps allows the editor to make clean edits without cutting off the subject’s words. Go over these last 2 steps with your subject before starting your recording session so it’s fresh in their thoughts.


4. Avoid "selfie-style" videos

One thing I get a lot are people trying to submit “Selfie” videos since they are so used to taking “Selfie” photos. I would strongly advise against this for so many reasons. For starters, the camera could shake or the framing could be off. There is also no one watching the video to ensure the subject looks their best. When possible, have a second person act as the cameraperson. Always put the camera down in a mounted position to avoid any movement.


5. Dress to impress

One last tip I’d like to provide is about wardrobe. Dress for your audience. If you are doing a business video, dress business causal. Try to stay away from bright colors like red and try not to wear tight stripes or patterns. Dark colors tend to work best.


6. Keep your subject calm

Finally, remember to have the subject take a deep breath, relax, and have some fun. The subject will always look better if they are being themselves. Don’t try to be the news anchor you see on TV. If they usually talk with their hands in everyday life, go ahead and do it in the video. Videos can be informative, funny, serious, etc.…but if you can’t have a little fun making them, let someone else do it!


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