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You’ve probably heard the saying “the best camera is the one that’s with you”. In today’s world, the same can be said for video cameras.

As mobile phone cameras have gotten progressively better, they’ve become reliable tools for recording videos on the go. Most new devices record in 4K or full HD, and with increasing phone storage space, it’s easier than ever to shoot, save, and share videos.

But even though it seems easy, taking videos is a skill that’s difficult to get right. The main problem is that we often aim for movie-level production quality on devices that – while good – have their limitations. So whether it’s recording videos to publish online or simply to capture memories you want to share, these 10 simple tips will help you take and create better videos.

While these rules mainly apply to mobile phones, most of them also hold true for other recording devices  – including tablets, camcorders, and GoPros.

1. Always Use the Back Camera

This may seem like an obvious rule, but it’s easy to forget. While front cameras have gotten more reliable for FaceTime and video calls, they’ve not yet reached the point where you can get decent, consistent video quality. Unless you’re recording a short (Snapchat/WhatsApp) video of yourself to share, always use the main camera at the back of your device to record videos.

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2. Stability and Focus

It’s important to hold your device with both hands while recording video. Use a tripod or place your camera on a stable surface for best results if you can. Another thing to keep in mind is to constantly look at your phone to ensure that your recording is smooth. Avoid any temptation of looking at the scene you’re filming. Some camera apps let you tap the screen to focus on the subject you want to record.

3. Record in Landscape Mode

As mobile phones have gotten bigger, portrait seems like the logical (and comfortable) way to record video. While that’s fine to view on a mobile device, keep in mind that videos are best viewed on a big screen, like a PC or TV. Portrait mode does not do justice to those screens because you’re wasting valuable real estate. So even if you have to record something in a hurry, get into the habit of recording in landscape mode.

4. Add a Grid

The only thing worse than watching a video recorded in portrait mode is watching a video taken at a wrong angle. Adding a grid lets you use your background as a point of reference to ensure that your recording is always straight. Some devices don’t have this option. On the ones that do, it’s a setting you may need to enable within your camera app.

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The grid helps you align your video against a line in the background to ensure you’re recording straight videos. If you’re recording people, then position their eyes in level with the top grid line. Photography enthusiasts will know this as adhering to the sacred Rule of Thirds The Basics of Photo Cropping That You Should Understand The Basics of Photo Cropping That You Should Understand Read More , which helps you frame items within your shot better.

5. Lighting

Lighting plays a bigger role in videography than photography because it’s easy to edit, brighten, or apply a filter and get away with dark photo, but doing the same to a video can destroy its quality. As a general rule of thumb, make sure that your subject is illuminated by a bright source of light that’s ideally behind you. Use your smartphone’s flashlight only as an absolute last resort.

6. Angles

The best way to record videos is wide angle. In short, this means that you should position yourself a few feet away from the action so that you can capture everything without having to move your camera. Sometimes, when shooting things like a birthday celebration it can be a good idea to try and position yourself at a safe height away from what you’re recording while pointing your camera downwards to capture all the action from above.

7. Try to Avoid…

Movement

Smartphones are not great at instantly focusing on things, so the less movement you have, the better your overall video quality will be. If you do have to move, make sure it’s subtle and slow so your camera has enough time to focus on each scene as you move. This was best described in 2016’s viral video craze, the Mannequin Challenge.

Zooming

As tempting as it to do, another thing smartphone cameras are not yet good at is zooming in and out of subjects. If you need to focus on something, get up close slowly, then retreat the same way.

8. Experiment with Effects

Video effects are the equivalent of photo filters. In both, the trick is knowing when to use what effect. Check the camera app you use to see if there are any hidden features or settings worth exploring.

Timelapse

iPhones have a great Timelapse feature Make Stunning iPhone Time-Lapse Videos With iOS 8 Make Stunning iPhone Time-Lapse Videos With iOS 8 iOS 8's new time-lapse feature can create some insanely cool videos -- here's how to get the most out of it. Read More built into the default Camera app, but apps like Lapse It let you emulate this effect on Android. Try using it at a time where you can use all (or most) of the above rules. Timelapses work brilliantly if you can steadily position your camera for a prolonged time over an area that’s constantly changing – for example, on the top of a bridge to capture a sunset or star trails.

Cinemagraph

GIFs have become the rage online. Like timelapses, they can enhance a video when used properly, but can easily be wasted if not. Unlike timelapses, they are best used to capture short and loud movements or actions. Read about how you can create cinemagraphs on Android Make Animated GIFs & Cinemagraphs [Android] Make Animated GIFs & Cinemagraphs [Android] The GIF image format is one of the staples of the Internet, allowing for animations to be shared with other people who aren’t standing in the same room as you. It’s one of the oldest... Read More and using Photoshop How To Make Your Own CinemaGraph In Photoshop CS5 How To Make Your Own CinemaGraph In Photoshop CS5 Cinemagraphs are small animated GIF files created from a movie, that capture a tiny moving section of that movie in a forever looping sequence. See the sample to the left if you have no idea... Read More .

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A video posted by €lif? (@elifucyldz) on

9. Editing

We live in a world where edits and filters make everything look better. The same rule applies to videos. We have a list of free video editing Windows programs The Best Free Video Editors For Windows The Best Free Video Editors For Windows Video has become a common part of everyday life. You'd think, then, that free video editors would be common. Turns out the selection is limited for Windows users. Here are our five top choices. Read More , online tools 5 Free Tools For Online Video Editing 5 Free Tools For Online Video Editing Online video editors have helped to turn everyone into armchair filmmakers. Most online video editors give you the basic cutting, splicing, and merging tools. Then there are the ubiquitous sharing options. What else do you... Read More , Android 5 Best Video Editors for Android 5 Best Video Editors for Android Want to get some video editing done on your Android phone or tablet? You've come to the right place. Read More , and iOS apps 6 Best Free Video Editing Apps for iPhone and iPad 6 Best Free Video Editing Apps for iPhone and iPad Shoot, edit, and publish your own mini movies right on your iPhone or iPad with these free apps. Read More . Apart from letting you remove unwanted parts from your video clips, these tools let you merge multiple clips and photos, add a soundtrack, video filters, and create a mini-movie worth sharing.

10. Automatic Montages

Not everyone has the patience and skill to carefully edit multiple clips into a montage. Thankfully there are free apps that do this for you. Apps like Google Photos How to Use Google Photos as the Perfect Vacation Companion How to Use Google Photos as the Perfect Vacation Companion Holidays are a time to remember, where you capture memories that you want to cherish forever. Using Google Photos will ensure that your favorite moments are saved for a long time to come Read More and GoPro’s Quik (Android and iOS) are superb. All you need to do is select the media files you want, select one of the free background tracks, and add a theme. Both apps then stitch your videos together to create a montage, saving you valuable time and making you look like a pro in the process.

Conclusion

With the rise of live streaming and video services like Facebook Live, YouTube, Periscope, Instagram and Snapchat, it’s more important than ever to have strong basic fundamentals for recording video. All it takes is a little practice. Check out these easy video projects 7 Most Popular Types of YouTube Video You Can Make Today 7 Most Popular Types of YouTube Video You Can Make Today If you were to begin a YouTube channel, which of video types should you produce first? We take a look at seven of the most popular. Read More that you can do to practice.

Don’t be afraid to experiment. Thankfully, our devices have gotten to the point where we can easily try again if something goes wrong.

Do you tend to record more videos or take photos? Which apps have helped you take better videos? Let us know by posting your thoughts in the Comments section below.

Image Credit: Billion Photos via Shutterstock.com

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  1. Akira
    September 24, 2016 at 5:27 pm

    These tips really help me out when I was filming viral videos for my project. Since it makes my works look so professional, even though I just film some extra shots.

  2. Akira
    September 24, 2016 at 5:26 pm

    These tips really help me out when I was filming viral videos, it makes my work look so professional. Even though I just shoot some extra shots.

  3. Naveen
    August 10, 2016 at 5:58 pm

    Hi Bakari, useful information. I was planning for a short video play.. Naveen

  4. Paul Verizzo
    November 26, 2015 at 3:38 am

    I've been shooting 8mm, analog and digital since 1987, and recently 3CCD miniDV . Thought I'd look for some tips online, and I gotta say, you have nailed them. That I didn't learn anything speaks well of what you wrote!

    I would like to offer two thoughts under the "Use a tripod," heading. Most people have never heard of a monopod, yet it offers the stability of a tripod with a much easier to use, more flexible, stabilizer.

    Second, use a "handy cam" or some variant thereof. Lots of homebrew versions out there. Basic premise is that inertia is your friend.

    I would also suggest a Wide Angle lens adapter. The Sony cameras I'm familiar with, at the most wide angle, are at about 35mm focal length if they were 35 mm cameras. Barely qualifying as WA, and sometimes worthless in interior shots. One really needs to get to a 28mm focal length to be effective. Or, 35mm equivalent X a .7 WA adapter, and you are at 24.5 mm equivalent. Thousands of times more useful in the real world than 400X or whatever digital zoom.

    Guess I'm unleashed now. The iconic "Citizen Kane," and "Hotel Berlin" used a circular pan which anyone can do. Ground breaking back then. You do need to be aware of obstructions in your peripheral vision, and it's good to have a Handy Cam or other image stabilization on. The basic idea is that you just move in a circle around the point of interest.

    Anyway, great advice, hope I've been helpful.

  5. Akshay Khanna
    October 25, 2015 at 12:05 pm

    it was very usefull thanks a lot!

    • Riley Watkins
      October 27, 2015 at 1:32 am

      hi it did sooo ............................................... not HELPED

  6. Duke Net
    May 31, 2015 at 8:39 am

    Great advice thank you so much.

  7. Anthony
    May 18, 2015 at 9:18 pm

    I'm 6 years late,just now read this and it was great editing information

    • Bakari Chavanu
      May 19, 2015 at 6:57 pm

      Thanks, Anthony, for your feedback. Yep, though the technology has changed, the basics of video shooting are still pretty much the same.

  8. Dlatinsmile
    December 17, 2009 at 1:43 pm

    You helped me. Thank you for sharing your info. Nice of you to explain it so clearly. Way to go.

    • Bakari Chavanu
      May 19, 2015 at 6:55 pm

      Thanks, Dlatinsmile, it's great to know that this article is still useful after so many years.

  9. Bakari Chavanu
    December 15, 2009 at 3:43 pm

    Sheel: “embed text or or hotlinks (same as youtube) in videos.”

    Mmm not sure about that one. I'll search around and see if what I find. If you find something, please let us know.

    Charles, good idea. I've had a Canon GL2 for years and use to shoot events off and on. I've clearly made a significant profit in using the camera. I'm just not sure though about stepping up HD yet. Thanks for adding me to your favorites.

  10. Sheel
    December 15, 2009 at 2:35 pm

    Very informative article. Do you know by which application I can embed text or or hotlinks (same as youtube) in videos.

  11. Charles Rinehart
    December 14, 2009 at 8:28 pm

    Excellent blog with great tips. I will be getting a camcorder this week, and will be doing videos to put on YouTube to promote my Florida travel blogs. Then after I'm better with shooting, editing, etc., I want to start doing videos for websites. I think this will be a great opportunity to make some real money with a service people need. Thanks again for all the advice. I'm adding you to my favorites. All the best.

  12. mgingerhack
    December 13, 2009 at 11:56 am

    This is really a nice information..specially about planning..
    i never thought about that