The cool thing about this day and age is that you can produce decent to great videos with just your phone, a few accessories, and some simple practices.
These tips aren’t going to turn your videos into say, a video like the one you’re watching right now, or something greater, but they will instantly make your Facebook Live videos better, your Instagram stories better, and any other videos where it’s simply you talking to the camera.
- Use a tripod or some sort of stabilization
Whether you are recording vlog style walking around or a stationary video, stabilzation is a key component to good video.
Stabilization not only helps remove shaky footage, but it also helps you frame your videos better.
If you’re walking around recording yourself, it could be hard to keep yourself in frame the way you want when you’re trying to hold onto something as awkward as a phone.
For both purposes of moving and stationary videos, I recommend some sort of table tripod that can act as a selfie stick. For some of our videos I use this Sirui with a phone clamp, but there are a lot of good budget options.
I recommend the Arkon Tripod with the tripod head. It’s only $20 and you can easily bend it to fit your needs as a sturdy table top tripod for your stationary videos, then bend it to fit your grip and hold it out in front of you. The cool thing about the tripod head is that it is a ball head which allows you to easily swivel the phone to change between landscape and portrait orientation.
When walking and talking, just removing your hand from direct contact with the phone increases stabilization dramatically. Even a cheap selfie stick makes a difference.
- Use natural light
The good thing about phone cameras is that everything from exposure and focusing is done by the phone automatically, so anyone can take decently exposed, in-focus video.
The bad thing is that, because of the small sensor size of phones, they don’t do well in difficult lighting conditions.
Before I breakdown a few tips for both indoor and outdoor shooting, here’s a PRO TIP: Unless you have a lighting setup and know how to use it, try shooting when there’s daylight.
For indoor, shoot near a window that’s letting in a lot of light. The great thing about light through windows, is that the glass often softens the light so it’s not so harsh on your face.
Next, position yourself so that you are facing the light and your face is illuminated. There are more advanced techniques you can use window light to have different looks and feels, but for now, just make sure you are being front lit and not back lit.
For outdoor, shooting you want to keep the same concept of being front lit, but with a few tweaks.
When shooting in direct sunlight, sure it’s better to be front lit, but then you face the problem of having the sun in your eyes and face, causing you to squint and casting harsh shadows on your face depending on where the sun is positioned.
Instead, try finding some shade. Since it’s bright outside, you’ll still have plenty of light, but now it’ll be soft and diffused like it was with the window light.
In the shade, we can still apply the front lit concept by having the shaded area behind you, and the sunlit area in front of you.
One important thing to note is that it’s easier for your phone to expose for what is already brighter. So when you are as bright or brighter than your background, your phone will have an easier time exposing you.
- Use an external microphone
You have to remember that sound is half of your video. So if you have a good image but poor audio, you have only 50% of a good video.
And in my opinion, it’s easier to pay attention to a video with good audio & bad visuals, than a video with good visuals & bad audio.
There are two types of microphones I recommend: Lavalier microphones & shotgun microphones.
Lavalier mics are good because you can clip them really close to your mouth, and they mainly just pick up your voice. Lavaliers also allow you to move around without losing your voice because it’s clipped to you.
A good budget lavalier mic I recommend is this Boya one that costs just $20.
Lavs are good when you are the only one speaking, but how about when you have someone else with you?
This is where shotguns mics come in handy.
Shotgun mics mount to your camera, and pick up sound in the direction it is pointing in. So if you and another person are both speaking and are positioned close enough together, the mic will pick up both of your voices.
The shotgun microphone I recommend is the Rode VideoMicMe which costs $55 at the time of this video. Rode mics are known as the industry standard for this price range, but there are other comparable mics you can find for a few dollars less.
The Rode comes with a wind muff, which is super important when shooting outside. Wind easily ruins your sound, and wind muffs are the solution to protecting the mic. Whatever brand you get, make sure it comes with a wind muff.
A few more pros about shotgun mics are that they typically provide higher quality sound than lavs and you don’t have to worry about running a wire around your clothes, so it’s easier to setup and more convenient for run-and-gun type recording. Also, if you want to pick up more ambient noise, a shotgun mic will do so.
A few cons about shotgun mics are that, like any mic, the sound quality is better the closer you are to the mic and the farthest you’d want to be from a shotgun mic to still get good quality audio is about 3 feet. Since they don’t clip to you and follow you around like lavs do, you need to be conscious about making sure you voice is aimed towards the mic and close enough.
When deciding between the two, choose the one that fits your needs best. Either way, your sound will be improved dramatically.