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How to shoot better smartphone videos

More video footage is shot today than ever before. The reason? Smartphones. They are always with us, they are easy to use, and an increased confidence in our ability to take halfway-decent still shots has led us to believe that we can also be the next Steven Spielberg when it comes to video!

But sadly, most of our smartphone videos are destined to disappoint. The shaky and grainy images are usually played back straight away and forgotten, gathering digital dust until it’s time for a smartphone upgrade. And if we do have the nerve to post the video to Facebook or YouTube, it’s usually with the hope that the cuteness of a baby or a cat will be enough to distract viewers from our technical shortcomings.

To be fair, a lot of the problems with smartphone videos are caused by the equipment. Smartphone cameras have much smaller sensors than regular cameras or camcorders, meaning that they will have difficulty picking up images and colors in poor light and be overwhelmed by too much light. The devices themselves are also small and therefore very sensitive to any kind of movement.

But all is not lost. Smartphone manufacturers are starting to include helpful features and editing tools that minimize some of these weaknesses. And there are some steps that we can take behind the camera to make sure those videos are ready for primetime Here are a few suggestions:

Keep your smartphone steady

While zero shutter lag is helping to eliminate camera shake on still shots, this isn’t going to help us with video. Make sure you grip the smartphone firmly with two hands. Turning the camera sideways to shoot in landscape mode will help with this task. Avoid sudden movements. Take a firm stance and anchor your arms to your chest for additional stability. If you are moving the smartphone to capture off-screen activity or panoramic views, turn your whole body and not just your arms.

For a much steadier video clip, use a tripod. Although few phones currently come with a tripod socket, it’s relatively easy to manufacture one by inserting a small screw through the edge of a smartphone case. After that, you can attach the screw to a regular tripod or any other device that will give you the desired stability.

Try to regulate the amount of light

Too much or too little light can dramatically impact the quality of a smartphone video. If possible, shoot outside on a cloudy day, so you have natural light but not too much glare. Indoor conditions can be far trickier, with artificial light impacting both the color and sharpness of the video images.

Newer smartphones like the iPhone 5 have a larger aperture to let in more light and tools like auto white balance to make colors more accurate, but they can still be overwhelmed by too much light or a dramatic change in light from one frame to the next. Consistency is the key. If you are shooting something more formal like a wedding video, then try out a few locations and angles to make sure you optimize whatever light is available.

Follow the basic rules of photo composition

Although video gives you much more license, you should still follow the basic rules of good photography to make your video more interesting. Divide the picture frame into a 3x3 grid and position the main subject somewhere other than the center. If a person is facing left, then position him on the right of the frame. Anticipate your subjects’ actions and give them room to move.

Also, be careful with the audio. Countless kids’ sports videos has been spoiled by the videographer chiming in with his or her comments or encouragement, totaling overwhelming the background audio. Let the scene speak for itself.

Use editing tools

Even if your smartphone video isn’t quite what you had in mind at first glance, it’s amazing what can be done with a little bit of editing. Again, some of the newer smartphones come with a suite of built-in editing tools, which will allow you to cut out certain scenes or add some limited special effects. But for a proper makeover, you will need to upload the video to a PC or Mac and use an editing tool like Windows Movie Maker or iMovie.

With these professional-style tools, you can enhance the color, eliminate unnecessary footage, blend the video with stills or slideshows, add full-blown special effects, and even add dramatic or background music.

Publish your video

OK – your video is now ready for an audience. Get it out of your smartphone (or off your PC if you have been using editing tools) and post it somewhere it can be seen. Most smartphones now allow you to post your video directly to Facebook, YouTube or other sharing sites. If you find yourself taking more and more video and are pleased with the results, then it might be worth starting your own YouTube channel so friends and family can subscribe.

Whatever you intend to do with your video, make sure it’s your best possible work. Hopefully the above tips will help!

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