Shooting Video with an iPhone

July 20, 2017

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Chris Lavigne


What do three different ads created with three different budgets of $1,000, $10,000, and $100,000 look like? Watch how Sandwich Video uses an iPhone X to shoot an ad for Soapbox in our new original series One, Ten, One Hundred.

Apple has come a long way since introducing video recording with the iPhone 3Gs. The newest iPhones can shoot stunning 4K footage, but if you just pull your iPhone out of your pocket and hit record, you won’t take full advantage of everything this powerful camera can do.

The following are some quick tips for getting the most out of your iPhone’s camera.

1. Use a tripod

The newest iPhones have built-in optical image stabilization, which makes shooting decent handheld footage fairly easy. But no matter how steady your hands are, nothing beats using a good old-fashioned tripod.

Our favorite iPhone tripod adapter is the Joby GripTight, which is around $20. It’s barely big enough to hold the iPhone 7 Plus, but it does work.

If you are stuck shooting handheld, here are some tips to help you stabilize your shot:

  • Keep the phone close to your body.
  • Rest your elbows on a nearby object.
  • Use your body to absorb bounces and shakes.

2. Don’t use the iPhone digital zoom

Unless you have the dual-lens iPhone 7 Plus, avoid the temptation to use the iPhone’s built-in camera zoom. Since the lens isn’t zooming optically, you’re just enlarging the picture digitally, which means you will quickly enter the world of unsightly pixelation.

If you want to get a closer-up shot of your subject, move the phone closer until you find the perfect shot!

3. Light your video

Your iPhone footage will look best when you shoot with lots of light. If you’re shooting indoors, adding supplemental lighting will go a long way.

The built-in camera flash on the new iPhone will never compare to using off-camera lights. You can use professional video lights in a bunch of different ways. The Westcott Ice Lights are some of our favorite versatile lights, but if you’re on a budget, you can also hack together a decent lighting kit from Home Depot for under $100.

If you can’t get your hands on any studio lights, but you’re still shooting indoors, position yourself facing a window and use the sun.

4. Use the exposure lock

The iPhone will automatically focus and expose your shot. This can be a great function for quick photos, but when you’re shooting a video of one person talking to the camera, it can really complicate things. The iPhone tends to keep adjusting and refocusing, which can lead to jittery-looking footage.

That’s why we recommend using the exposure focus lock. This will help to keep the focus and exposure constant throughout your shot.

5. Get your microphone close to your subject

A general rule for clear audio is to get your microphone as close to your subject as possible.

When you’re shooting video with an iPhone, it’s best to position a second iPhone directly above the subject’s head to record clean audio. Creating a simple voice memo will do the trick!

Another option is to use an external microphone. You can plug a powered mic, like the Sennheiser ME66, into an XLR microphone adapter, and it’ll send the audio from the microphone directly into your iPhone.

Pro Tip: Clap once at the beginning of each take to create a reference point for syncing the good sound from the voice memo with the bad sound from the video recording.

6. Slow-motion and time-lapse

You can get some amazing shots with the iPhone’s built-in slow-mo, but make sure the choice to slow down the action is motivated. A shot of someone skiing will probably be great in slow-mo. A shot of someone typing on their computer, on the other hand, might not be so interesting.

In the camera settings, you can choose to shoot 120 frames-per-second at 1080p resolution or 240 frames-per-second at a reduced resolution of 720p.

Time-lapses are a cool way to showcase a bustling work environment or event. Here are some handy tips for capturing a seamless time-lapse video:

  • Put your phone on a tripod.
  • Lock the focus and exposure for smooth and natural lighting changes.
  • Put your phone in airplane mode before you hit record.

7. Edit on your computer

There are some pretty cool editing apps available for the iPhone, but they still don’t beat editing on your computer. When you finish shooting, plug your phone in, offload your footage, and import your videos into your editor of choice.

If you’ve never edited a video before, there’s never been a better time to start. The iPhone’s camera combined with some minor editing can unlock some serious potential. Plus, free tools like iMovie have made editing easier for everyone.

Use the camera you have

If you thought you needed to go out and buy a DSLR to make a video, think again! Sometimes, the best camera is the one you have with you.

Chris Lavigne


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