A few tips for getting good video footage with your cell phone

Even if you don’t own a great camera and your cell phone is the only way you can film, we still want to see your videos--even if the quality of the footage isn’t great! That said, here are four tips that will help you make better videos with your phone.

1. Film in landscape mode

Remember to hold your cell phone in landscape mode (horizontally) when you are filming, (as shown in the image below).

Why? The standard resolution for HD TV is 16:9, which is, essentially, a shot filmed in landscape mode. So, if your video is in landscape mode, it can be used in fullscreen.

On the other hand, if you film in portrait mode (holding your phone vertically), your video will have a different resolution but will still have to be squeezed into the 16:9 resolution box when we upload it to YouTube. This will cause two prominent black bands to appear on either side of your footage (as shown in the image below).

Tip: Hold your phone in landscape mode so that your video can be played on a full screen

2. Keep it stable

It’s definitely not easy to keep a steady hand when you are filming an event that is happening right before your eyes. However, if you move too much, your footage will be jerky and may even be unusable.

For the best footage, stand completely still while you are filming the scene you want to record. You may want to move after a few seconds. If so, keep any movement as fluid as possible. If you do need to move to follow the action or get a new angle, move your entire body, not just your hands.

In the image below, our journalist shows you what NOT to do with your hands. When you want to move to follow the action you are filming, try to do so by taking a few slow steps instead of moving your hands. Keep it fluid, you should never make sharp movements while filming.

Tip: Remember to hold your telephone firmly. If you can, hold it with two hands, especially when you need to move

3. Vary your angles and images

When you are witness to an event, it is very important to try and film everything that is going on in the scene. Remember that it’s up to you to bring your viewers a complete picture of what happened.

For example, check out this footage that our Observer filmed of a truck accident.

He filmed in different places and also filmed many aspects of the scene that was unfolding in front of him. This allowed us -the viewers- to really get an idea of what was going on.

A: A. First, he filmed passersby who were trying to help victims still stuck in the truck. This is the main action of the scene that he witnessed, but he didn’t stop there.

B: Next, he filmed the same scene (people helping victims), but, this time, from the other side of the truck. This new angle reveals different details about what is going on (this is called a reverse shot).

C: Next, he moved to film near the back of the truck. This shot includes the truck’s spilled cargo in detail. We can also see two-way traffic on the street where the accident happened. Each of these ‘clues’ help our team to verify exactly where the events took place and also help us to better understand what happened.

Tip: Remember to vary your footage of a scene by shooting from as many different angles as possible. Include as many details of what is going on as you can!

4. Pay attention to the lighting

If your footage isn’t well-lit, it’s difficult for viewers to see and understand what’s going on. Often, the Observers team won’t even be able to use a video filmed in the dark or very low lighting (as shown in the image below).

The best tip to make sure your video is well-lit is to film with the light source (be it the sun, a lamp or something else) behind you. This will allow the light to reflect on the people or objects that you want to film.

In the image below, the light source is in the right place: behind the hand holding the telephone.

On the other hand, if you are facing the light source or if it’s behind the people you are filming, your footage will be much darker, especially if you are filming at night.

In the image below, the light is in the wrong location: behind the person being filmed. This makes the footage much darker.

Tip: Pay attention to where your light source is when you are filming. Try to make sure that the light is behind YOU instead of behind the person you are filming.


Watch the video version of this tutorial