SmartPhone Video Tips

Here are some smartphone and iPhone tips to help you get started with Great Videos.

If you only want the highest quality professional videos, don't bother trying any of these tips. Hire a professional crew. You'll never get the same quality without spending thousands of dollars on equipment and software, the spending thousands of hours on learning how to use it. If you only hire professional, though, you'll miss a lot of great little videos you could do yourself that will still have great value, perhaps even more. The public wants to see authenticity. They want the real you. They don't want to watch horrible videos, though, so you still need to do your best. 

These tips will make filming with your handy-dandy smartphone easier for you and the resulting quality will make your customers/clients happier. Oh, yeah, it will also attract new customers and clients to you. Have fun! 

Release Forms

If you’ll be featuring a person, such as in an interview or testimonial, don’t do anything without getting an Appearance Release signed first. Let me know and I’ll be happy to provide you with a simple form.

airplaneAirplane mode

If you don’t want to receive a call or text while you’re in the middle of videoing, set your phone to airplane mode first. Don’t forget to undo it later.


Go to your phone settings > photos & camera. Be sure Record Video is set to 1080p HD @ 30fps. You may also be able to click to have the grid lines on. These may only work for still photos, but if they work for video on your phone, too, they will help you compose your frame.

Double tap the screen

When in video mode, double tap the screen to put recording in wide screen mode. Try it and you’ll see that the screen shape changes back and forth. You want it wide.

Single tap to auto-focus

Get your shot set up and before you press the button to record, let the camera automatically adjust. Just takes a second. Then tap once on the face of your subject or what you are focusing on. A square should appear over it. That’s it.


Hold the phone horizontally, not vertically. In the two examples below you can see the difference. When filming is done vertically, you get two black bars on either side of your video. Professional video typically has a 16:9 aspect ratio with the 16 being horizontal.

Level Horizon

Can you see the horizon in your clip? If so, do your best to keep it perfectly horizontal. This isn't easy. Using a tripod helps a lot. Some even come with a level to help you know how perfectly horizontal you are. And then it keeps it there. But if you don't have a tripod, and who always has one anyway, just do your best and be conscious of it. No tripod was used for these and even if it was used, I was sitting at the end of a dock at the Burlington Boathouse, bobbing up and down. You have to be real. :0)


When choosing a location, be sure the light is not behind your subject. This will result in overexposure, too much light. Have the light behind you and shining on your subject. Natural light is best whenever possible. Even indoors, you can be in front of a window, looking away from it toward your subject and have pretty good light. The example below shows what I mean.

I love this next clip. It's so awful! It's a great example of about five things to avoid: 1) overexposure, 2) a finger got in the way, 3) a trash bin should have been moved, 4) there's not enough movement, 5) it's probably too short to be useful. 


Be aware of what’s within your frame - actually, background or foreground, anywhere within your frame. It's so easy to overlook something that doesn't look good once you get home and watch it on your computer. An example is the trash bin above. Avoid things like a sink full of dirty dishes, litter, clutter, etc.


You want to have movement in your videos. It can be movement of your subject like chickens or puppies playing. Or it can be the motion of you moving your camera/phone from one thing to another - hopefully a fairly slow, smooth movement. Motion in video gives emotion, which is good. You want an emotional connection with your potential clients/customers. No motion is boring and a reason for them to just click off your video and get on to the next thing. Keep them watching!




Hold your camera steady. Keeping your elbows against yourself or resting them on something firm may help. You’ll want to use a tripod for some things like an interview. Use it at eye-height so you aren’t looking up or down at the person. For general use, vary your height for interest. Here’s an inexpensive tripod that would probably work just fine with a smartphone: Acuvar 50" Inch Aluminum Camera Tripod and Universal Smartphone Mount. I haven’t used this one myself, though, so can’t tell you how good it really is. Even a selfie-stick may help.


Vary how close and how far away you are. Just a video of houses all taken from the same distance is boring. If you’re touring a neighborhood you can do a shot that moves from a street sign slowly down the street. You can get a close-up of flowers in someone’s garden and then slowly move the smartphone to take in the whole garden.


Good sound is so important and there’s not too much that can be done to help it in editing. If you’ll just have music in the background, you can mute the sound your camera/phone picks up. You can also do a voiceover later and add it in editing if you have software that will do that. Otherwise, be aware of background noise (lawnmowers, coffee grinders, babies crying…) and choose a quieter location if possible.

Rule of ThirdsFraming

Imagine your screen is divided into threes horizontally and vertically. If interviewing a person, be sure the eyes of your subject are on an imaginary line one-third from the top. The one-third lines are also very helpful in putting whatever you want as most important in the best place. Where the lines intersect are the best places to put whatever it is you are focusing on. And, if your clip/photo has a horizon, it is best on one of the two horizontal lines. In photography this is called the Rule of Thirds. Here are a few examples.