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.
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.
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, which helps you frame items within your shot better.
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.
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…
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.
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.
iPhones have a great Timelapse feature 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.
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.
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, online tools, Android, and iOS apps. 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 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.
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 that you can do to practice. And don’t forget that audio is just as important, so check out these tips to help you record better audio.
Don’t be afraid to experiment. Thankfully, our devices have gotten to the point where we can easily try again if something goes wrong. And there are always video quality enhancers to help if something goes wrong.
Image Credit: Billion Photos via Shutterstock.com