How to Shoot High-Quality Smartphone Video

A picture of a person shooting video with a smartphone
Shoot widescreen video that looks like a pro recorded it. Photo © Nico De Pasquale Photography / Getty Images

With today's ever-changing technology, it doesn't matter if you run a magazine or a radio station. Everybody needs video, whether it's on your site or a part of your daily TV broadcasts. Sometimes the only means you have of shooting video is through your smartphone. Just follow a few simple tricks to shoot smartphone video that rivals footage shot from a pro's high-tech gear.

Shoot in Widescreen Format

It's a phone so you typically hold it like a phone when making a call.

However, when you're shooting video, turn the phone sideways. Shoot in widescreen format so that your video will look great, whether it's playing on your TV station's news or being uploaded to your YouTube channel. Otherwise, your video will have the dreaded black bars down the side and won't nearly look as professional.

Make Sure Your Video is Uncompressed

If you're taking a video to send via text, most smartphones automatically reduce the quality to limit the file size. You want to make sure your video settings are on the highest quality possible and that your file will be uncompressed.

The video will take up more internal space but it will also look the best. You can always edit it later to cut down the file size.

Tilt and Pan Slowly

Although smartphone technology is continually evolving, it's still a phone with recording capabilities. In other words, it's not your standalone video camera.

Smartphones capture video differently and that means you can't just swing the camera to the left or right, up or down and get the shot you expect ... unless you're looking for a roller coaster ride effect.

Tilt and pan slowly to adapt to the smartphone camera's limitations. This will make your video move more smoothly so that your shot is not trying to catch up with you, giving you a video ripple or even missing frames.

Hold Your Camera Steady

The same rules apply to shooting video with your smartphone as they do with shooting with any other video camera. Keep your camera steady. You can buy a smartphone tripod to keep the video steady. For shooting on-the-fly, you may not have a tripod with you so you need to be a human tripod to shoot steady video.

Most people have a natural tendency to hold the camera out and away from their bodies when shooting. This just sets you up for shooting jerky video. You don't want viewers to get motion sickness so hold your camera steady. Keep your arms close to your body and grip the camera tightly with your hands. Smartphone cameras aren't very forgiving so any kind of shake you do is going to result in video that looks like a child shot it.

Filter Out Excess Noise

There may be times what you need to shoot video of is surrounded by audio you don't want. For example, if your audio source is a person speaking in a restaurant or a band playing in a club, the setting could be affecting how your audio will sound. You'll be frustrated when you get ready to upload your video, only to find out the sound is distorted, over-modulated or tinny because the camera couldn't distinguish between what you wanted it to pick up vs. all of the other noise feeding into the microphone.

You can filter out excess noise easily, though. Cup your hand near the microphone with your hand blocking out the background noise. The open part of your "cup" should be facing the audio source you actually do want to record.

Check Your Lighting

Smartphone cameras take better video when you have a good light source. If you're taking video of a band playing in a club, the lighting can be too dark unless the stage is well lit and you're close to the front. Shooting outdoors is ideal as long as it's not so sunny that your video looks white hot. Overcast days can present the best lighting for shooting video.

When in doubt, shoot a few seconds as a test and then take a look at it. That way, you can make sure your smartphone is giving you the results you want to see in your videos.