Make Great Videos With Your Phone

Tips for cell phones videos that look and sound better

taking a cell phone video of the Taj Mahal

Juergen Ritterbach / Getty Images

New cell phones can put an HD or even 4K camcorder within arm's reach at all times and have become the go-to recording device for many of us. Of course, the quality of cell phone video can vary wildly. This is partly because of the quality of the cell phones - some have better lenses and higher resolution than others. It's mostly a sign of the quality (or lack thereof) of the person making the video.

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Get the Wide Shot!

Remember this: All cell phone videos should be horizontal. It's tempting to turn the phone and frame a video shot, but that will be sideways when you watch on your computer or TV!

This is a mistake I see people making all the time. The shots can be rotated during editing, but then you end up with some serious pillar-boxing.

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Record Phone Videos Outdoors

Bright light makes everything look better, including and especially cell phone videos. Try recording a nighttime video on your phone, and you'll be disappointed. And even shooting indoors with lights on can be problematic, with white balance and other issues to contend with.

The small size of the sensor in your phone is the enemy here. Similar issues plague action cameras as well. Dark scenes result in digital noise.

For the best quality, shoot outdoors, but out of direct sunlight. The colors will pop and the video will be the best you'll ever get from your phone.

For bonus points, experiment with angling your lens in accordance with where the sun is to try to get lens flares in your footage.

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Keep the Lens Clear

We can't tell you how many videos from my phone feature a pink blob, creeping in from the side of the frame. Yes, the edge of my finger, once again obscuring the lens. As everyone needs to be reminded: Be careful to keep your fingers away from the lens on your phone. Same goes for cases with straps or other doodads (Moleskin cases are regular offenders). Let's not ruin any more videos, ok?

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Keep the Mic Clear

In the spirit of the previous tip, figure out where the mic on your cell phone is, and keep it uncovered and clear when you're recording video.

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Keep Your Phone Steady

Phones are so light, that it's easy to jiggle them when recording video. For steadier cell phone videos, you can invest in a little tripod — or make one yourself, either with your elbows resting on something or braced at your sides.

To take your phone videos to the next level, check out iOgrapher. They make awesome click-in cases for iPhone and iPad that will turn your phone into a portable video studio.

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Keep the Mic Close

Speaking of audio, it's often the worst part of recording video with a phone. Most phones don't have microphone inputs, but you can keep the audio quality up by recording in quiet spaces and keeping the phone as close to the subject you're taping as possible.

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Upgrade to a Good Phone for Video

Most cell phones can record video — even the flip phones from the early part of the century. But these older and cheaper cell phones record videos with small frame size and low bit rate.

If you plan to record a lot of video with your phone, upgrade to one that shoots in HD. It's worth it, and you'll find it quickly replaces other, bulkier camcorders you may have been using!

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Edit Videos on Your Phone

If you have a smartphone, you can download an app that lets you edit video right on your phone. As an iPhone user, we really like the editing feature included in the free Vimeo app, and we also have the iMovie app.

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Upload Videos From Your Phone

YouTube makes it easy to upload videos directly from your phone with the YouTube app. If you don't have the app or a smart phone to support it, you can still upload videos by emailing them from your phone to a unique address available in the mobile setup section of your YouTube Account Settings.

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