It’s no secret that cameras on mobile smartphones have become increasingly impressive. And, although an iPhone camera is likely not the first choice for an experienced videographer, the notion that smartphone filmmaking is an amateurs-only arena is tired and dated. In fact, with the right tools and tips, making a movie with only an iPhone can yield surprisingly cinematic results.
Smartphones are shooting in 4K, and thanks to the ever-expanding app store and easy-to-access accessories, there are plenty of options for enhancing the already impressive camera. But, even at its most basic level, with no fancy additions, an iPhone can be used to create a stunning, visually pleasing film. You just have to know how to use it. So, to help you get started, here are a few tips and tricks for iPhone filmmaking. Cover photo by Anomaly.
1. Good Lighting
As any experienced filmmaker knows, one of the greatest tools you have at your disposal is lighting. Lighting can completely make or break a scene regardless of what type of camera you’re shooting with. If you are working in a natural setting, we recommend shooting at golden hour, just before the sunrises or just after it sets.
The soft, pleasing tones you find at this time of day are perfect for creating cinematic shots.
2. Have A Clean Lens
Though this may be the most simple and straightforward suggestion we offer today, it is certainly the most important. Regardless of how perfect your lighting is, how steady the camera is, or how perfectly you’ve timed everything, if your camera lens is dirty, you will not have high-quality footage.
And although this may seem like it goes without saying, because smartphones travel everywhere with us, their lenses get much, much dirtier than the average camera lens. So, before you shoot, give your iPhone camera lens a quick wipe with a microfiber cloth. It’s an easy thing to do, and it’s rewards are immeasurable.
3. Switch to Manual Control
Although you likely purchased a smartphone for the convenience it brings to your life, the automatic settings on an iPhone camera are anything but convenient when it comes to shooting mobile films. Take the time to adjust the settings based on your surroundings. In the automatic mode, your camera will quickly adjust to any and every light and depth of field change, in turn disrupting the cinematic look you’re going for. Switch to manual settings in the camera app. This tip will save a bunch of time in post-production.
4. The Horizontal Hold
Unlike traditional film cameras, iPhones are light and easy to hold. Because of this, you may be tempted to hold your phone as you typically would, straight up and down with one hand. However, not only will this create a shaky scene, but a vertical view also disrupts the natural flow of human vision.
Flip your phone horizontally and hold it with two hands to achieve the most desirable shot. A horizontal shot also displays better on YouTube and social media. So, whenever you’re ready to share your masterpiece, if you’ve shot in landscape, your path to fame will be that much easier.
5. Nix the Zoom
Nowadays, iPhone cameras can zoom in closer than ever and produce a surprisingly high-quality image. However, if you’re shooting a film with the intention of capturing a cinematic shot, you’ll want to ditch the zoom feature. It distorts the image and reduces the quality of the final product. Instead, take advantage of your light and mobile iPhone camera and actually move your phone closer to the subject.
6. Use a Stabilizer
Along the same lines of the horizontal hold, it’s important to make sure that your smartphone camera is stable. And, while you can sometimes achieve that simply by holding the camera with two hands, occasionally you might need a little extra help. A gimbal or a handheld rig are great options for creating buttery smooth shots, but they aren’t necessary.
This isn’t traditional filmmaking and you don’t have to use traditional equipment. Experiment with your environment to find a natural place to stabilize or simply bring in a chair. You don’t need expensive equipment to make stunning mobile films.
7. Be Prepared
Last but certainly not least, be prepared. Being prepared is completely free of charge and it could be the difference between a day well spent and a disaster. Before you begin, make sure that your phone is fully charged, and if you have an external backup battery or charger, bring it.
Free up space on your phone so that you don’t have to stop mid-shoot, and make sure that all of your gear, props, actors, and shooting locations are ready to go.
Follow all of these simple tips and tricks, and you too can create visually stunning masterpieces with nothing but your iPhone and some elbow grease. And, if you wanted to go the extra mile, you can always purchase additional accessories, like a tripod or specially made lens. But you certainly don’t need to. So get out there, and get filming. You can make a masterpiece with what’s already in your pocket.