Whether you want to be the next TikTok star or the next Steven Spielberg, you can make it happen with nothing but your phone. The past few generations of smartphones have been capable of shooting professional-quality video, and they come loaded with effects and filters. There are also video editing apps that help you edit your footage into masterpieces with only your thumbs. But if you want to make great content, you need more than tech, and you've got to think like a cinematographer. We've a few tips below that most people don't know, and they're all game-changers for making videos on your phone.
Shoot in the Morning or Evening
Lighting is the most critical factor in any visual media, and getting the proper lighting for smartphone videos is not always easy. If you want, you can invest in studio lighting…but if you're shooting videos on your phone, you probably want to avoid extra costs. Instead, shoot at times of day that capture the right vibes. Morning and evening are the best times because the lighting is soft. Soft lighting ultimately illuminates your actors' faces without casting distorting shadows. The direct sun causes visible shadows in all the creases of a person's face. As they move and speak, the shadows can affect their appearance in unflattering ways.
Turn on the Camera's Grid
Here's a shooting tip to help your shots look like a pro cinematographer planned them. Go into your camera's settings and look for a setting called "Grid." Turn it on. You will see a 3x3 grid overlayed on your screen when you shoot. This helps you follow a basic photography principle called the "rule of thirds." This rule states that the subject should appear on the left or right side of the shot (along the lines of the 3x3 grid). This accentuates your subject or juxtaposes it with other activities in the shot. It's a hack that leads to better photographic composition. You can see some examples here. It's especially effective to place the subject at one of intersecting points on the grid.
Choose A Mobile-Friendly Editing App
Video editing software can be complicated, especially when squeezed onto a tiny smartphone screen. Some apps manage the small screen well, and others don't. We recommend iMovie for iPhone and iPad users. It's free software that you already have on your device, and the interface is simple. We also like KineMaster, which is for iOS, Android, and Chrome OS. KineMaster uses a circular trackpad-Esque navigator, making it easy to edit with a single thumb. These are free tools, but KineMaster will put their watermark on your videos until you upgrade.
Use Stock Video
Stock video is the answer to so many problems that amateur filmmakers have. It can allow you to go to exotic locations, add special effects and backgrounds, include complicated aerial shots, and much more. Some stock video is free, and some can be expensive. If you pay more, you can get high-quality footage in HD or 4K. And, it's still a lot cheaper than filming the footage yourself. Once you buy it, you can cut it and reuse it all you want. It's even possible to create entire sequences using only stock video.
Use a Second Phone for Audio
For most of your scenes, the mic on your phone won't be good enough to capture clear vocal audio. But that doesn't mean you have to go buy a boom mic or lapel mics. Just use another phone! Place a second phone on or near your actor(s). Then, you and your actors can move around without having to worry about distorting the audio. During editing, simply match the audio track with the video. In most environments, you won't be able to tell your scenes weren't filmed by a pro crew.
Shoot. Edit. Repeat.
It's only been possible to create pro-level videos on a smartphone for a year or so. That means you are at the cutting-edge of the medium—even if you don't have much experience. All of the tricks have yet to be discovered, and the first mobile film hasn't hit theaters.
The best tip is to shoot, cut, and repeat. Find out what works and what doesn't. Then do it all again. Becoming a great content creator or filmmaker takes time. But it used to take time and money…a lot of money. Now, everything you need to make high-quality videos is in your pocket. So, get out there and make the first mobile movie masterpiece.