Making Great iPhone Videos Is Easy!
This article reveals my Simple Plan for making great iPhone videos. And here’s an example of the type of video you’ll be able to produce when you keep these 10 tips in mind (the video is also at the end of this article).
Also at the end of this article, I’ve added a video tutorial which will explain these ten iPhone video tips in even greater detail. The video also includes a tutorial on how to post-process your great iPhone videos in iMovie right on your iPhone!
Tip #1 – Steady – Stabilization
Hold your iPhone steady. I’ve made a lot of handheld videos with my iPhone 6 Plus and it’s quite possible to produce smooth video thanks to the iPhone 6 Plus’s optical image stabilization. My hand isn’t the steadiest, so you may be able to do much better than me. That said, if you don’t plan on getting a tripod but you do plan on making a lot of video with your iPhone, I recommend the iPhone 6 Plus (I now have the iPhone 7 Plus – even better). The iPhone 6 (not Plus) has quite capable digital image stabilization, but why not get the best?
Another way to hold your iPhone steady is with a tripod. This is the recommended method, but obviously not always possible. If you decide to use a tripod (which you really should but which I rarely do) you’ll need a smartphone tripod adapter. I think I’ve found the best one.
It’s the RetiCAM® Smartphone Tripod Mount – XL. Be sure to get the XL if you have a big phone (like the iPhone 8 Plus or the Samsung Note).
If you have more of a standard-size phone, get the RetiCAM® Smartphone Tripod Mount – Standard Size.
This tripod adapter (also called a tripod mount) is metal. It’s solid. It holds your phone tightly and securely. If you use your iPhone with a tripod a lot, this is the one for you.
I use this mount myself. I never worry about my phone falling out or the mount breaking due to poor quality construction, which can’t be said about many other smartphone tripod mounts.
Some other tips for holding your iPhone steady are:
- use both hands
- use whatever is near you to steady the phone – the hood of a car, a fencepost, a rock, a log, etc.
- don’t drink coffee before filming (REALLY!)
I make sure and abide by the above rules, but still, with a tripod, I have a hard time holding the phone as steady as it needs to be held for making truly great iPhone videos.
** update **
There’s a better way to keep your iPhone steady. And that’s to use a gimbal. My choice of gimbals for the iPhone is the DJI Osmo Mobile. I’ve written an extensive review on the Osmo Mobile. The review includes quite a lot of actual footage. For $300, the Osmo is an amazing buy and can really help you take your iPhone video to another level. I also have a video review for the Osmo if you’re interested.
I’ve recently added another video review for the Osmo with the iPhone X.
Tip #2 – Keep it Interesting (use short clips)
This might seem obvious, but it isn’t. Most iPhone videos I see aren’t interesting. They’re long, boring clips with no flavor. No interest. No storyline. In fact, most iPhone videos I see are really nothing but a shaky mess. Boring.
So what’s the best way to make your iPhone video interesting?
Keep your clips short.
It really is that simple. If you use numerous short clips instead of one long clip, your video is probably going to be pretty interesting. And if you do record long clips, just chop them up in post-processing to make them short (remember to watch the video tutorial at the end of this article).
This isn’t a hard fast rule. Sometimes you need longer clips. Maybe you’re recording a piano recital, or perhaps you plan on speeding up your footage. In cases like these, you may need long clips.
But as a general rule, keep your video interesting by keeping your clips short.
Tip #3 – Incorporate Movement
When you’re making a video with your iPhone (or any camera), be sure to utilize movement. If you just set the camera down and record something without moving the camera at all, your footage might feel a bit stale.
I pan from side to side a lot. I move the camera forward and backward. I circle around my subject. I point it out the window of a moving car. I record when I’m riding my bike. These tactics create interest and make the resulting video enjoyable to watch.
But watch out!
When you move the camera a lot, you’re likely to capture shaky footage. So practice moving smoothly and slowly. Remember, steadiness is the first on our list of 10 tips. So incorporate movement, definitely, but do it in a slow, smooth and purposeful manner.
Fast, jerky, shaky movement ruins your video. So be careful!
And don’t forget, you can always use the DJI Osmo Mobile (or any other smartphone gimbal) for even smoother, more cinematic video. A good gimbal can take your iPhone videos to another level. Really!
Tip #4 – Perspective
Shoot your clips from a variety of perspectives (different angles). It adds variety to your video.
Get right down near the ground when recording a clip. Look straight down on your subject. Get on your back and shoot straight up at your subject. Shoot into the light. Shoot over someone’s shoulder. Record right behind some leaves or a plant on the ground to create depth of field and beautiful foreground or background blur. You’ll find some eye-catching footage when you review your clips as you shoot from unique and varied perspectives.
Tip #5 – Lighting
Perfect lighting for an iPhone video is outdoors in semi-cloudy weather. Soft daylight alleviates harsh shadows and diminishes over-exposed areas (areas that are completely blown out with significant or total loss of detail). The lighting on a semi-cloudy day is (for me) just right.
Another time of day with amazing lighting is the golden hour. The golden hour is the time of day just after sunset or just before sunrise in which the light has a soft, reddish look.
Shooting at the golden hour creates a dreamy look that evokes emotion (e.g., kids growing up, golden sunlight through your child’s hair). Use the golden hour to your advantage.
The iPhone does pretty well in bright sunlight as well. Try it and see if you like it. However, I don’t like shooting in bright sunlight unless that’s my only option.
The worst lighting for an iPhone video is indoors, in low light. Your video will be grainy and lack detail, and will look muddy and soft. If that’s your only option though, the iPhone does a better job than any other phone. It won’t compare to a DSLR, but it’ll do in a pinch.
Avoid low-light, indoor shooting situations if at all possible.
Extras (needed apps / accessories)
The Apple Camera App
This app is more polished than ever before. And it allows you to shoot in super slow motion. Use it.
Hyperlapse allows you to create sped-up clips. You can speed your clips up from 2 times to 16 times faster. This app creates some killer effects. Record a few “hyperlapses” and see how it works for you. Walk along a trail while recording, ride your bike along some curvy roads, record out the window of a moving car . . . be creative!
iMovie for iOS allows you to combine clips, add transitions and texts, change colors, add audio, etc. It’s a pretty phenomenal mobile video editor and it’s free, included on your iPhone. If you don’t have it, you have a 32GB version or less so you’ll need to get it free from the App Store.
Filmic Pro costs $7.99 but is currently half off on the App Store. You don’t have to have Filmic Pro, but it allows you to set exposure, focus and white balance separately while shooting video on your iPhone. This alone is worth the price of admission. But there’s much more.
Filmic Pro allows you to to zoom at a set (but adjustable) speed, record at bitrates up to 100mbps, set audio input levels and it offers a variety of frame-rates.
Filmic Pro is not a must, but being able to record at much higher bitrates is a capability not to be ignored.
Filmic Pro simply takes your iPhone videography to another level, if you’re willing to take the time to learn it.
Battery Life (plenty of it)
If you plan on making any really cool video on your iPhone, you’re going to need to take a lot of clips and that’s going to take a lot of battery life. So be prepared.
Space / Capacity
You’re going to need plenty of space of your iPhone. I recommend (at the least) an iPhone with 64GB of space. You can get by with 32GB, but it gets a bit dicey. If you really are into video, you’ll be best served by the iPhone 6 Plus with as much space as you can afford.
These free (or very cheap) extras could be your key to making great iPhone videos.
Have you ever wondered why some videos are so engaging? You just want to watch. And you might want to re-watch. Why? Because they tell powerful stories or offer unique information in a clear manner. And most often, videos that make such an impact didn’t just happen. They were skillfully planned. And that’s what makes them great.
The more detailed your plan is, the better your iPhone video will be. Know your story. Know your purpose. Know your audience. This is something I don’t do so well, and my videos often suffer as a result. Good planning takes a bit of work, but the improvement in your videos is well worth the extra effort.
Lock (Lock Exposure and Focus)
This one is not as obvious as some of the others, but it is essential for great quality video on your iPhone.
How to Lock Exposure and Focus on Your iPhone
It’s easy to lock the exposure and focus on your iPhone. Simply touch your screen on the precise spot you want exposed and focused properly, then press on that spot and hold until a yellow square blinks. At this point your exposure and focus is locked (you’ll see AE/AF LOCK—Auto Exposure, Auto Focus LOCK–at the top) and the lighting (or the plane of focus) won’t change as you record your clip.
Once the exposure is locked, you can adjust it (brighter or darker–for the effect you desire) with the little sunshine slider to the right of the yellow box on your screen.
When your exposure and focus are locked in, start recording.
Why It’s Important to Lock Exposure and Focus
Locking exposure and focus may seem counter-intuitive, and it is if you’re recording really long clips with varying lighting (your subject will be over or under-exposed and in or out of focus as the lighting and shooting distance vary).
However, by locking exposure and focus, you get the lighting you want and focal point that you choose. Not only that, clips looks more professional when the lighting and focus stay constant as the camera moves. Watch my example film (at the end of the article!) and pay attention to the exposure and the focus. You’ll see they remain constant throughout each clip.
Notes About Locking Exposure and Focus
In most daylight conditions, you don’t have to worry much about your focus (unless you’re shooting close-ups). The camera will be using a very small aperture and most everything you’re shooting (foreground and background) will be in sharp focus.
If you want separate control over exposure and focus, you’ll need a third-party app. I recommend Filmic Pro. It’s pretty awesome to be able to get a high-quality, full-featured video camera for a few bucks.
You’d need separate control over exposure and focus if you want lock exposure but have the camera auto-focus or if you want to set separate focus and exposure points.
Locking exposure and focus is one of the little things folks often forget about. Do it! Making great iPhone videos is often about little things.
Audio straight from the iPhone is pretty bad. Not terrible but not great by any means. Remember this: great video has great audio.
You don’t have to record separate audio but if you can, you should.
What I often do, and I what I did in my example video, is replace the recorded audio with music. Some videos lend themselves nicely to such an approach (scenery videos, etc.). Alternatively, you can combine music (don’t use copyrighted material!) with your recorded audio.
note: Josh Woodward gives his music away for free. Josh is an exceptional artist. Additionally, he has instrumental versions of all his songs! Check out his website if you’re in need of background music for your videos (or if you just want to enjoy some musical artistry). I’ve used his music for many of my videos. Just be sure to credit Josh in the description. Read this page to see how to credit him properly.
iMovie makes it easy to adjust the volume of clips. Add a music track to your timeline and simply adjust the volume of the clips until you’re happy with the mix of sounds.
Always remember that improved audio (using an external microphone) will significantly enhance the overall quality of your video.
Shoot numerous clips. It seems obvious and it is. The more clips you record, the better your chance of getting some impactful footage. It’s a pain to sift through 1,000 clips, but whoever takes the trouble to do so will (most likely) create a superior final product. Shoot as many video clips as you can to increase your chances of getting some phenomenal shots.
Obviously, if a person shoots 1,000 low-quality clips (shaky, long, boring, overexposed, etc.) and another person shoots 100 high-quality clips (keeping the above tips in mind), the latter will produce a better final product. So record purposefully and carefully and record a lot.
Keep this Simple Plan in mind so that you can make great iPhone videos of your own.
E. Extras (Apps, battery, space, accessories)
L. Lock exposure