Shooting Video on your Mobile Device A HANDY GUIDE

Shooting horizontally keeps your video ratio the same as devices that it will be displayed on (TVs, Monitors etc.)

Shoot Horizontal, Not Vertical

Although you can shoot vertically (in portrait mode) on your device, this isn't good practice as the devices used to view your final footage will probably be wide-screen (e.g. televisions, computer screens). It is best to always shoot video horizontally (in landscape mode) to ensure maximum compatibility, and no annoying black bars or cropped images.

(Above) How video shot in portrait looks on a TV, compared to video shot in landscape

Things to try...

If you need your shot to be steady and level, use a tripod!

Keep it Steady - Use a Tripod

Your mobile device might have a degree of built in stabilization which is great for casual use. But if you’re recording a more formal piece on your device it’s always best to use a tripod when possible to ensure your shots are steady and level.

This is especially handy if you are editing multiple takes of the same sequence, as slight camera movements can be really distracting to the viewer.

Tripods come in all shapes and sizes, some are specifically for mobile devices, or you can get an adaptor to fit your device onto a standard tripod (see below)

What if I cannot use/don't have access to a tripod?

Don't worry! Whilst not ideal, there are ways around this issue without resulting in wonky video footage. increasingly there are smart Apps being developed to allow you to use your mobile device as a Gimbal. See below for details...

It's always better to physically move closer to your subject if you can.

Favour Optical Zoom over Digital Zoom

Unless your device has an optical zoom (where you can physically adjust the lens), then any time you zoom in you are simply enlarging the picture digitally. The bigger you digitally enlarge the image the more pixellated it becomes, and quality is lost.

If you need to get closer to your subject it’s always best to physically move closer until you find the perfect spot (unless you have an optical zoom lens on your device).

Whenever possible, always opt for optical zoom over digital zoom (with many mobile devices this means physically getting closer to the subject or scene!)
Think about lighting when shooting your subject(s) as this can make a big difference on the look & feel of your film.

Consider Lighting

The built-in flash on your mobile device will never compare to using off-camera lights. If you need to light your subject then you should think about using an external light source. This is usually done with professional lighting kits but a cheaper alternative is to utilise natural light.

Simply plan your shot and position your subject in front of a window (when shooting indoors) with the camera facing them. If light is too strong you can help diffuse it using tracing paper, net curtains, or find a window with frosted privacy film on.

When shooting outdoors look for areas that provide an even light and do not fall into an extreme (I.E. bright sunlight in an open space or dark shade under a tree).

Of course, you can use extremes with light to add effect to your video too!

Depending on the look and feel of your video, you can use a wide range of lighting tools, or just utilise natural sunlight for a cheaper solution!
Use exposure lock to keep your footage looking constant throughout your shot.

Use Exposure Lock

When using the camera, your mobile device will auto focus and expose your shots. This is a useful feature when taking photos, but when shooting a video this feature can hinder the process by having the device constantly try to adjust focus and exposure.

This creates jittery-looking video footage and is especially noticeable when filming a subject talking to the camera. If your device allows, you can use the exposure lock feature to help keep focus and exposure constant throughout your shot.

The closer you can get a microphone (to your subject), the better! But watch it doesn't impede on the scene.

Think About Sound

Although the video quality of your mobile device may be great, generally the audio quality isn't. As a rule of thumb, the closer you can get a microphone to your subject the better quality audio you will capture.

You can use a number of devices to achieve this, including: lapel microphones that sit discretely on a persons tie or collar, or boom microphones that are held overhead.

A good alternative when using a mobile device to capture video is to use a second mobile device to record the audio. Position the second device as close to your subject/scene as possible (without it getting in the way) and start recording (most mobile devices have an audio capture/voice memo feature that is prefect for this).

Once you have finished shooting simply save the audio recording and match it to the video using editing software in the post-production stage of your project.

Using adaptors you can connect microphones to your mobile device for better sound capture, alternatively (and if you have a second device to hand) you can use a tablet or smartphone placed close to the subject/scene to record sound, and then stitch it with the video during editing.
Using the grid on your devices camera app can help you compose your shot, making it more aesthetically pleasing.

Use the Grid

The grid tool allows photographers to observe the rule of thirds when composing a scene. The basic principle behind this rule is that an image can be broken into thirds both horizontally and vertically. This breaks the image up into nine sections (as illustrated above). The intersection of each line identifies an area of importance to the scene.

Use these intersections to compose areas of interest (e.g. the focal point of the shot - this could be a person or object that is the main focus of the scene).

(Left) The four intersections (important parts of the scene) - (Right) The four guide lines.

In addition to the intersections, you also have four guide lines to allow you to position elements within the shot that may not be as important, but help build the scene.

You don't always have to adhere to the rule of thirds, and in some cases the scene you wish to create might not call for the rule to be in play. For example, if you wish to emphasise symmetry in a scene you would centralise the object/subject you wish to focus on.

Generally, centralising the scenes focus goes against the rule of thirds but is perfectly fine if the scene requires it. The best thing to do is experiment with different shot types. The shots you might have planned out might not always work how you had hoped, so it is important to try a few different shots if you feel something is missing from the scene.

(Top row) Example images that observe the rule of thirds. (Bottom row) Example images that do not adhere to the rule, but are still aesthetically pleasing.

You're all set!

Grab your device and go make an awesome movie!

Created By
Christopher Wardle-Cousins
Created with images by Unsplash - "smartphone photography hands" • Grant Wickes - "DFW Search Engine Marketing Association" • kalleboo - "sony ericsson ipk-100 collage" • sridgway - "Joby gorillamobile - Landscape Mode" • MIKI Yoshihito (´・ω・) - "iPhone 5S + TASCAM iM2X." • Unsplash - "smartphone digital camera camera" • Unsplash - "photography motive display" • Illusive Photography - "Studio In The RAW: High Key Set-up" • KlausHausmann - "spot spots spotlight" • DncnH - "Light and Shadow #2" • VideoVillain - "_GGB2036" • James Cridland - "iPhone voice memo" • Illusive Photography - "Rule of Thirds" • twak - "rule of thirds vs reality" • Yogendra174 - "Majestic is the only word that comes to mind" • mbona - "architecture saragossa caixaforum" • takeshiiiit - "kuala lumpur petronas twin towers malaysia"

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