Anyone with a smartphone has the power to create a high-quality video. Since 2010 smartphones have had the capability to film in HD, with the Galaxy S and the iPhone 4 being among the first. Since then, smartphone cameras have radically advanced and are now capable of helping you achieve professional-grade camera quality at a fraction of the cost.
Quality along with their compact size and convenient sharing capabilities make smartphones perfect for self-recorded videos and vlogging. These types of videos are great at creating a down-to-earth connection with your audience— but only if they’re filmed correctly. To represent yourself as someone worth listening to, you will want to make sure your audience can clearly see and hear you!
Two main factors come into play when creating a high-quality video with your smartphone:
- On-camera presence
- Audio and visual quality
A lot about what a viewer sees and hears affects the way they feel watching a video. Too dark of a room can give the viewer a somber feel, a distracting background can make their attention waver; poor composition can make a viewer feel disconnected. In this article, we’re going to lay out some easy ways to enhance the quality of your videos and provide some tips on how to look great on camera!
Camera & Settings
First, let’s start with what you’re recording on: your handy-dandy—no, not notebook, you Blue’s Clues-ers—smartphone! They’re powerful machines on their own, but need a little assistance to pack the punch of a professional camera.
Just about any accessory that can be used to enhance a standalone camera can also be found as an attachment for your smartphone. If you want to produce a professional product using your phone you may not need every piece of equipment available, but some enhancements are crucial.
Check out our blog for our suggestions on some of the best equipment to enhance your smartphone’s capabilities.
FRONT OR REAR CAMERA
Both front and rear facing camera’s are commonly used for vlogging because each has its own benefits. Rear cameras have better quality and more filming capabilities, but a front-facing camera provides easier viewing ability while recording. Which camera you decide to use will be based on your own personal preferences along with what’s required to get the best shot.
To increase your camera’s quality you may want to purchase an external lens — we suggest a lens that works on either side of your smartphone. If you’re focused on high quality, using the front-facing camera may limit the quality so you’ll want to make sure you purchase a good lens. If you’re shooting with the rear camera you won’t be able to see yourself and may need to use a wireless screen mirroring application.
Pro Tip: If you aren’t using an external telephoto lens, make sure you do not zoom past your camera’s built-in optical zoom range. One of the most glaring differences between filming on a professional video camera and a smartphone is the ability to zoom. Smartphones use digital zooming, whereas most video cameras use optical zooming.
The digital zooming of a smartphone will automatically reduce the quality and give you a pixelated image. When using a smartphone, you need to physically move closer to the image you are capturing.
You will always want to set and lock focus and exposure and avoid using your phone’s auto settings. Movement in the background or the sun peaking out from clouds will have your video’s picture all over the place and will quickly diminish your video’s appearance. Constant changes in focus and exposure will also make editing your vlog a nightmare. Locking focus and exposure will keep things consistent. All phones are different, but most typically have a “lock” feature that’s activated by pushing and holding on a selected area. Using a third-party filming app that gives you even more manual options beyond the standard built-in ones will also enhance the quality of film you’re capturing.
Different platforms have different orientation preferences and you should consider how you are going to distribute your content before you film. If you’re planning to use the same video on multiple platforms that have different orientation needs, shoot the video in landscape with enough extra space to crop the video into a portrait frame.
Horizontal / Landscape
Vertical / Portrait
Lighting & Sound
While it is possible to achieve decent results using nothing more than your smartphone, you will need to pay close attention to your lighting and sound to achieve truly professional results. Even if you don’t have the budget to purchase external equipment there are certain things you can do to increase the quality of your video.
Use bright, focused light from an external source such as an LED light. There are tons of affordable lights that connect to your cellphone such as ring lights and small LED clip-on’s, but if you don’t have access to an LED light you can use a window. Large windows can act as a diffuser and provide soft, pleasing light and you can move closer or farther away until you get the right amount of light. Try to avoid having bright light directly behind you, unless you are going for that type of dramatic effect.
If possible, use an external microphone to obtain the best results and always try to record in an area that isquiet and has good acoustics. You will want to avoid big open rooms that contain wood and metal surfaces. If the room you are recording in is too reflective and you don’t have the budget for professional acoustic treatments, you can use rugs and window coverings to eliminate unwanted echos.
Appearance & Composition
Don’t worry if you’re not “fit for camera”. Trust us, no one is. Even news reporters spend at least 30 minutes with professional makeup artists before going on air. But who has the time (or budget) for all that? Here’s how to look your best without a hollywood crew in your corner!
KEEP THE CAMERA AT EYE-LEVEL
Filming at eye-level will increase your personal connection and bring humanizing value to your video. Since it’s how we talk and view people in real life, it makes people feel as if they’re having a natural conversation. Angling the camera up will not only be unflattering but will make the viewer feel disconnected from you. Angling the camera down may make you appear smaller and more submissive. So unless you’re trying to evoke a particular emotion, keep it eye-level.
KEEP YOURSELF CENTERED
In most cases, you will want to center yourself in the frame and make sure there isn’t too much headroom. If you are walking and moving locations make sure you are paying special attention to your positioning to avoid cutting off your face in the shot. Once you get comfortable with this, you can start experimenting with the rule of thirds.
PLAN YOUR MOVES
You should always plan out any movements or prop usage to make sure all of the elements stay in frame. If you are planning to show or present anything, try practicing the moves a few times to make sure you are leaving enough allotted space in the frame. This will minimize extra work in post-production trying to re-frame your shots. If other people will be in view, it’s important to be aware and knowledgeable of the laws on recording without consent at your particular filming location.
Hunching, even just a little bit, can look exaggerated on camera. Keep your shoulders pulled back and chest open. This will also help you exude self-confidence and increase engagement.
PREOCCUPY YOUR HANDS
If your hands are unnecessarily fidgeting they will distract the viewer. Even if they are below the frame of your shot, they will also move your upper arms and shoulders which will be visible. Instead, try grabbing the side of your pants to keep them still. If your hands are in the frame use them freely (it’s fine to be animated) just make sure you’re not using them in a way that causes any unnecessary distractions.
DRESS THE PART
There are not many rules when it comes to your on-camera attire, just realize that you only have one chance to make a first impression. Your clothing should reinforce your overall message. If you are making a business video try representing your brand through colors, style, or with a small logo. If it’s a lifestyle video you can get even more creative. As a general rule, we suggest you wear solid / non-busy patterns to avoid moiré patterns on certain screens. Just know that all black can come across depressing and all white can look over-exposed in certain lighting.
HAIR & MAKEUP
Again, there are hard and fast rules here but try not to distract from your face, avoid large earrings, bulky hair clips, and “attention-grabbing” hats. In fact, baseball caps in particular, can make it very difficult to light your face properly. Your hair should be groomed to fit the style of your video, but it shouldn’t lay in your face. Natural makeup will keep the video feeling personalized, but for a bolder impression, the sky is the limit. Go on and embrace your inner Diva!
A tidy area helps put viewers at ease and eliminates the innate “fight or flight” instinct we feel when something makes us feel uncomfortable, such as a messy or chaotic area. As human beings, we are more inclined to listen to people who appear to have it more together than we do ourselves. A sense of organization and ‘togetherness’ in your surroundings helps establish credibility and build your level of trustworthiness. You can also use props to convey a message, this can be something as simple as a candle to represent calmness. But don’t get too fancy as you will want to use a non-distracting background to keep the viewer’s attention on you.
And Finally, Just Be You
Keep your videos as personal and natural as possible. Know your key points, but don’t plan out a script. Talk as if you were having a conversation with your friend. Some stutters and pauses are okay! The more genuine you and your message are, the better your video will resonate.
With a little planning and preparation you can shoot like the pros — straight from the device in your hands.