I’m a professional videographer who uses an iPhone and I’m proud of it! Call me an Apple fanboy, but I get work. Lots of work. Last year I shot over 40 commercials for Elkhorn Media (my employer) in Eastern Oregon and on many of them I used my iPhone on.
And none of my clients knew the difference. Or even cared if they did.
Smartphone tech is now getting to the point where only those with the best trained eye can tell the difference between video shot on a phone and video shot on a professional camera. Plus there are so many benefits to using an iPhone in commercial videography.
- Reduced camera weight
- Versatility in camera movement
- Reduced setup time
- Reduced camera body repair cost
That being said, you do have to do a little work to get your iPhone commercial ready! In the last article in this series 7 Investments To Get Started Doing Videos With Your iPhone, I talk about the basic areas of gear you need to invest in for your iPhone rig.
But the right gear is only half the battle. We here We Heart Create feel that technique is really what takes mediocre video to a professional level, whether you’re shooting on an iPhone or a Red One.
Your iPhone has way more capabilities than you think it does, but in order to maximize the quality of the video you have to use it right. And whether you’re shooting commercials for a living (like I do) or trying to shoot a feature film entirely on your smartphone, there’s some simple things you can do to get it right.
Set It Up Correctly
Before taking video on your phone, you need to set it up. One important aspect of this is resolution. Your resolution is how large your videos are going to be. The two most common resolutions these days or 1080p HD and 4K. 4K is the largest resolution phones can currently shoot. You can change this by going into the settings of the camera app you’re using.
You also should set your frame rate. Frame rate is how many individual images your camera records per second. Some common settings are 30 fps, 60 fps, and 24 fps. The higher your frame rate the smoother your video will be. Most video displayed on the Internet is shot at 30 or 60 fps. Shooting your video to 60 fps will give you a smoother and allow you to make it slow-motion. Shooting a 24 fps will make your footage look more cinematic.
In order to adjust these setting you’ll need a different camera app than Apple Camera on your iPhone. I prefer Filmic Pro ($14.99 on the app store). In the Filmic Pro you can also also adjust the bitrate of your video. Increasing your bit rate will give you a higher quality video, though the footage will take up more storage space on your iPhone. You’ll have to balance how much space you have free with how high a quality you want your video to be.
My personal favorite settings to shoot on are 4K at 24 or 60 fps. I love shooting 4k because because pretty much all of us have high resolution screens to watch 4K these days and it looks really crisp. 4K will also allow you to adjust and crop the image in post production giving you more control. If you decide to shoot at 24 frames per second, you’ll have a cinematic feel to your video. 60 fps is great for slowing the video down later, giving your footage drama and detail.
And remember. Your shutter speed should be twice your frames per second. That means if you’re shooting at 24 FPS, your shutter sheet should be set to 1/48. At 60 FPS, you should use 1/120.
Think About Composition
Composition just means how what things are in your shot and how they’re arranged. You want to compose the elements in a scene deliberately. One blogger describes using your phone’s LCD screen as a painter might arrange forms, colors, and textures on a canvas.
The rule of thirds is a good standard to shoot by. The rule of thirds is a rule in photo and video that says shots generally look better when the subject is just to the left or to the right of center. The Filmic Pro app even has a grid that can be enabled to align your talent on the screen. All you have to do is go into Overlays, click Settings and turn it on.
Stabilize Your Shots
One of the biggest differences between amateur and professional video is stabilization.
Stabilization can be more difficult when shooting with an iPhone because of how light it is. Because of its weight (or lack thereof), handheld shots on iPhone can be shaky.
If possible, invest in a tripod. For some options, read our article. If you absolutely have to shoot handheld, though, keep the phone close to your body. Rest your elbows on a nearby object. Instead of letting the phone bounce and shake, use your body to absorb movement. A little bit of stabilization goes a long way.
Adjust Your White Balance
Your white balance is a standard for how your camera interprets color. Essentially you’re telling the camera what things are really “white’ so that it can interpret all the rest of the color spectrum relative to that.
Your Apple Camera app normally does this automatically. Nobody wants to think about white balance when you’re shooting pictures of your kiddo at Christmas! But if you’re shooting professional video, you need to be in the habit of setting it manually. Good white balance will get the right colors every time, make your shots look natural, and reduce your work in post production.
To set the white balance and Filmic Pro, take a white sheet of paper and put it in front of the camera lens. Then tap the white balance button. The app will take care of the rest.
Don’t Use The iPhone Zoom
Like I talked about in the previous post, you don’t want to use your iPhone zoom feature. The lens isn’t zooming in optically. You’re just enlarging in the picture digitally. Which means you’ll quickly pixelate your video and make it look ugly.
Instead, if you want to close up shot of your subject, you can either use a lens or simply move the phone closer until you get the perfect shot. Moving closer to the subject will also give you better depth of field. Depth of field makes the background go out of focus, drawing attention to your subject.
Lock Your Exposure And Focus
When you go to film, your iPhone will generally automatically focus and expose your shot. This is great when you’re taking quick photos at your family reunion. But when you’re shooting professional interview it can make things look messy and unappealing. Especially when the iPhone keeps adjusting and refocusing and messing up your footage.
Focus and exposure lock are can be done both in the Apple Camera and Filmic Pro apps. All you have to do is click on an area in your shot, turn on the setting, and your phone will consider this the central focus point and stay focused there. To turn both tools on, you’ll need to select dual radical in the app.
Get Your Audio Close To Your Subject
The best way to get good audio is to get the recorder as close to the mouth of your subject as possible. Several ways that you can do this include either purchasing a microphone for iPhone or using a separate device.
For options for iPhone microphones, see our article.
The other option is to have an external recorder or even another iPhone to place as close to the person talking as possible. If filming an interview, put your device on the table next to your subject. Or even better, buy a holding stand and put it near their mouth just off screen. You can then sync the audio with the video after you’re done recording.
And remember, if you’re recording separate audio, clap once at the beginning of each take to create a reference point! That way you’ll be able to easily sync your footage and sound after the recording is done.
Put It On Airplane Mode, Dude
There’s nothing more embarrassing than getting a phone call on your camera in the middle of an interview! Whether you’re shooting an iPhone or not, turn your phone to airplane mode! This will prevent distractions and interruptions and also conserve battery life while you’re shooting.
Back Up Your Footage
Done shooting for the day? Take all of your footage off of your iPhone and store it into different locations on two different drives. That way if anything happens to any one storage device, you have a backup. This also frees up space on your iPhone for future shoes so that you don’t get halfway through and realize you’re out of space.
Shoot, Shoot, Shoot and Shoot Some More!
As with anything else, the most important thing is to just go out and do it. There’s nothing holding you back! You have a great camera right in your pocket which also can provide you with all the apps to make complete works of art. And if that isn’t enough, the same device you shoot and edit with is also the point of distribution across lots of networks online!
You have nothing keeping you back! So get out there and make videos with your iPhone!
About The Contributor
My name is Tim Mustoe. I studied Film Production at Eastern Oregon University. Now you can find me making videos for Elkhorn Media Group or strumming on my guitar in my off time. I’ve worked in video journalism, marketing, cinematographer positions, premiered at regional film fests, helped teach filmmaking and mobile filmmaking workshops and now the Video Director at Elkhorn Media Group. I consider myself a documentarian and everyday storyteller.
I don’t get paid to contribute to these blogs. But when you share my content a portion of the advertising revenue does come back to me so I can continue to create beautiful things for everybody to enjoy.
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