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Equipment Essentials – How to Shoot Great Video With a Phone

It’s possible to make great videos using a smartphone. Need proof? Here’s a list of 11 movies shot on iPhones. The reverse is that it’s possible to make horrible videos or movies with huge budgets and expensive equipment. It’s not the equipment you have but how you use it that matters. Skill and creativity will trump fancy gear every time. 

That said, there are a few things to keep in mind to get the best videos out of your little smartphone cameras. 

Know the Limitations

A big part of getting the most from your phone’s video camera is knowing what it can’t do. For instance, most phones don’t do well with areas of bright light and dark shadow in the shot. You’ll either have black holes or blown-out highlights. The workaround is to make sure your shot has even lighting, with no overly dark or bright areas in the frame. 

Phones also aren’t great for zooming in a shot using editing software. You can do it, but you’ll notice a loss of image quality. Instead of relying on zoom, get closer to whatever it is you want to film. The other option is to get a clip-on telephoto lens. 

Low light used to be a real weakness of phone video. While newer phones are getting better at shooting in low light, you’ll still get the best results shooting in a well-lit area. 

Work Within the Limitations

Instead of trying to do something the camera isn’t great at, use those limitations to your advantage. Get in close to your subject, and find new angles to add visual interest. The small size of the phone, when compared to other cameras, can work in your favor. You can get unique angles and perspectives that will keep the interest of the viewer. When setting up your shot, look around to see how you add interest to the shot through creative camera placement. 

Wide-angle is the default of most smartphone cameras. Wide-angle shots can be really interesting. Landscape establishing shots are great when shot wide. And a wide-angle is great for making use of negative space in a shot. That negative space is also a great place to overlay text, too. 

Exposure Lock

Smartphones use an auto-exposure feature that constantly adjusts the exposure to give you the best-looking image. With photos, this is great. And it’s also good for video when moving from indoors to outdoors. But most of the time, you don’t want the exposure to change in the middle of a shot. To prevent this, use your phone’s exposure lock feature. 

To use this to the best effect, set your exposure and focus by tapping on your subject. Then lock the exposure. Now, even when you pass in front of a bright light source, the exposure won’t change. This is especially useful when dealing with unavoidable backlit scenes or scenes where your subject passes in front of bright light, such as a window. 


Good sound makes for good videos. Record sound from an external source to really improve your smartphone videos. This can be another phone closer to the subject or a lavalier mic connected to a sound recorder. 

Most editing software will allow you to add an audio track to sync to your video. Getting the sound and video to line up perfectly can take a bit of time, but it’s worth it. To make it easier to sync sound, start the video recorder and the sound recorder, then get your subject to clap once. This is the quick and dirty version of using a slate. In your editing software, use this clap sound to sync the video to the sound. 

With practice and a bit of research on video composition and shooting methods, you’ll be making great videos with your phone in no time. 

When you need more than just a phone video, the professionals at Dream It Reel have you covered.