The Essential Guide to Shooting Video on iPhone

iPhone Videography Guide: I understand that big and heavy video equipment is not very convenient when traveling in the woods. But is it enough to take your iPhone to the mountains to shoot an unforgettable mini road movie? I often shoot videos with my iPhone during my travels, so I want to tell you that mobile phones are actually a great tool for shooting videos anytime, anywhere. But you need some small things, and I will tell you what they are.

Pros and Cons of Shooting with an iPhone

The main advantage:

  • Lightweight: You don’t have to carry a large bag of equipment
  • 4K 60fps: The iPhone that can record at high resolution and high frame rate
  • Touch interface (and internet connection): basically you have a camera and a mini computer in your pocket for post-production and publishing

Main Disadvantages:

  • Small sensor size: This means poor low-light capability and bokeh capabilities
  • No viewfinder: You can rely on the LED display, but it’s not that reliable, especially in direct sunlight
  • No aperture: The iPhone lens has no aperture blades, which are essential for reducing the amount of light entering the lens

These shortcomings may be off-putting, but don’t worry. With a few extra extras and thinking outside the box, you can correct them. But first, let’s look at some essential videography basics.

Key Basics of Videography

You need a story

If you don’t have a great story, then it doesn’t matter what equipment you use. Everything can be a great basis for a story: a trip to the forest or mountains, a celebration, a wonderful moment in life. But you need to know and think that every storyline has some points to cover, and it’s good to prepare and build your story before going out to shoot. Here’s an example:

  • Who are your characters and what are their goals?
  • Opening scene: What is the problem the character needs to solve or achieve?
  • Showcase their adventures and learning curves
  • Ending and results

You can read more about how to develop a good storyline and plot or how to develop a storyboard:

iPhone video shooting basics

Resolution and FPS

1080p is more than enough for Youtube, but if you want to make higher resolution videos, then you should go for 4K. FPS stands for frames per second. Don’t go below 24fps, as this is the number of seconds that the human eye recognizes as a rolling movie without stuttering. If you want to slow down the video later for dramatic motion, it’s best to use 50/60fps, which allows you to slow the video down by half, or 100/120fps, which means the video will be slowed down 4 times in post-production.

Shutter speed, ISO, aperture

If you want to shoot cinematic-style videos, you have to pay attention to your shutter speed to achieve the ultimate goal of videography: motion blur. Without motion blur, your videos (especially action) will look unnatural and not sharp. You can create motion blur by keeping your shutter speed at twice your fps. For example: if you shoot in 4K 60fps, your shutter speed must be 1/120.

the essential guide to shooting video on iphone 1Shutter speed based motion blur

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Additionally, you’ll want to keep your ISO low to avoid noise in your shots. Low shutter speeds and low ISO mean too much light in daylight conditions. On an iPhone, you can control shutter speed and ISO, but there’s no aperture to reduce the amount of light hitting the sensor. That’s why you need an ND filter (fixed or variable), which is a darkening filter.

Logs, flat profiles

These settings result in a “raw file” of video capture. If you want to add your own color to your footage in post-production, you’ll need to shoot flat footage that lacks the color grading of the iPhone’s factory software. Because if you stack your color grading on top of this, your footage will likely fall apart.

White Balance

White balance controls the color temperature of the image. This setting defines how warm or cool the color tones are. Color temperature is measured in Kelvin (K). Daylight and flash colors are 5.600K. This is natural light. If it is lower than this value, for example 3.200K, the image tones are warmer, and if it is higher than 8.000K, the image tones are cooler.

Color temperature chartColor temperature chart

The color temperature of a normal household light bulb is about 3.000K, so it will create a warm light and all colors on the lens will appear orange. However, if you set your camera to 5.600K, the device will correct the white balance for that bulb and you will get more neutral colors than orange. The camera settings are mostly correct and you can rely on the automatic white balance settings to shoot natural light shots, and if you want to get creative with the color temperature you can easily set these settings in post-production. But be aware that if you shoot with the wrong white balance settings you will lose some colors that you can’t get back to normal in post or it will ruin the shot.

work

Wider lenses: Frame your story to tell the story of context, place, time of day or weather conditions.

Close-up: Close-up portraits are great for telling details, small things, and feelings. Take a few photos from long distance to close up to tell the whole story.

Most iPhones these days have two lenses, a wide-angle lens and a small telephoto or portrait lens, so you have more possibilities for framing your photos.

iPhone Camera Accessories

It’s no accident that Hollywood-style camcorders are huge. They come with large viewfinders, focus pull rings, comfortable grips and other handles, external monitors, and more. These are all essentials for making great movies on the set. But what if your iPhone doesn’t have them? Well, you should build your professional camcorder piece by piece.

the essential guide to shooting video on iphone 3My iPhone Camera Kit

tripod

The iPhone has great image stabilization, but if you want to take cinematic-style stills, you’ll need a tripod. The good news is that you don’t need a bulky tripod because the iPhone is really light. I use a CULLMANN Neomax 240, an ultra-light yet powerful ball-head tripod that offers great flexibility and load-carrying capacity. This tripod is universal, as it also works with my APSC cameras.

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Mobile stand

You will need a mobile mount to hold your phone on the tripod. There are many of these available on Amazon. I use the Andoer mobile mount, which is metal so it will be more durable than plastic.

ND Filters and Filter Adapters

I mentioned above that your iPhone doesn’t have an aperture, and you need to reduce the amount of light that enters the lens, especially in daylight conditions. ND filters can achieve this. ND stands for Neutral Density, and this filter is actually a piece of gray glass. ND filters are available from the factory in a variety of sizes and densities, and are labeled with a number to identify the amount of light that can pass through the filter. The lower the number, the more light, and the higher the number, the less light that can pass through the filter. If you don’t want to deal with a set of filters, I recommend using a VND filter. The V stands for variable, and you can easily set the filter to different values ​​from ND2 to ND400. I use a Fotga variable ND filter and an Ulanzi filter adapter.

Gimbal

If you like to shoot by hand and capture footage by moving, you should consider using a gimbal to stabilize your clips. But be aware that in my opinion, gimbals sometimes create unnatural clips and you should use the built-in image stabilization and your bare hands to get a more natural clip. I’m using a Feiyu Technology G6 Plus gimbal, but this is a universal device for APSC size cameras, action cameras, and phones. You don’t have to buy it if you only want to use it for an iPhone. DJI, Zhiyun, and Feiyu all have cheaper models designed for phones.

microphone

I’m more of a B-roll guy, which is why I mostly don’t record live, or just pick up some ambience with the iPhone’s built-in mic, but when I do record voices or people talking, I use a Boya BY-MM1 Universal Mobile Shotgun Mic, along with some No-Name lavalier mics and a RODE Mic Splitter to get two inputs in. These are great for getting started in the business, but if you want to expand your sound, consider a Zoom H1N external mic.

External battery

Video shooting is a power-hungry activity. iPhone batteries cannot be replaced, so you may need an external charger to charge your phone on the go. I use the Xiaomi 10,000mah version.

+1 A drone

I know this is a long shot and drones aren’t cheap, but some drone footage really adds to your final video, and the total and bird’s-eye view can make up your story. Today, drones have similar technical capabilities to an iPhone (e.g. sensors, lenses), which is why their footage is perfect for your timeline. If you want a pocket-sized drone with nearly the same video capabilities as an iPhone, try the DJI Mini 2. Our basic guide to drones is a great starting point to get familiar with these little birds.

the essential guide to shooting video on iphone 4Made with iPhone XS, VND filter, Moment app, DJI Mavic Mini drone

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iPhone video recording app

The iPhone’s built-in camera app doesn’t have some of the basic features for shooting good videos. For example, you can’t control ISO, shutter speed, or white balance. That’s why you need a professional iPhone video app. There are a lot of great apps on the App Store, but I recommend Filmic Pro or the Moment app. I’m using Moment right now and I’m very happy with it.

What can you control with the Moment app?

the essential guide to shooting video on iphone

  1. Switch between front and rear cameras
  2. Soaring
  3. Exposure Compensation
  4. ISO
  5. Shutter speed
  6. White Balance
  7. Switch to Movie or Photo mode
  8. Presets
  9. Record Button
  10. Application Settings
  11. gallery
  12. Microphone switch and volume meter
  13. flash
  14. Flat, logarithmic profile
  15. solve
  16. First-person shooter games

Shootings

Prepare

Before heading out, sit down at home and think about what you need on location and how you’ll achieve your goals for your video. Do you want to record sound? What’s the weather like? What’s the light like? Check out our article on location scouting for some tips on how to find the best places to shoot.

Save your video script to your iPhone so you can check what shots you’re missing while you’re out and about. There’s no worse feeling than being at home and realizing you don’t have the essential footage you planned to capture.

On the field

Use tripods and gimbals to stabilize your videos. I recommend carrying your iPhone on a tripod instead of taking it apart after every shot. Cover the screen with your hand to check your settings, lighting, and composition.

Minimal post-production

You have two ways to cut and edit your footage and create the final video.

  • If you want to be quick, you can edit your footage right on your iPhone. iMovie is a great free movie editing app, but if you need more features, you should try VN Video Editor or LumaFusion.
  • If you want to review and edit your clips on a computer or laptop, I recommend iMovie or DaVinci Resolve. Both are free and excellent applications.

First, you need to cut your clips and edit to make a timeline, then color grade your footage:

  • Bring back the contrast because remember, you shot the clip in a flat log.
  • Add some saturated colors
  • If you have footage with darks and brights, try setting the exposure on the individual clips so that they are evenly brightened.

Add some royalty-free music, using Artlist or Epidemic Sound, and hit the Render button. Then there’s one more step you need to take: publish your new content and share it with your friends and loved ones.

in conclusion

If you have a few accessories and apps, and learn some video shooting basics, your iPhone can become a truly amazing mobile video shooting tool that’s still lightweight enough to be a pocket-sized camera. Heavy equipment should never get in the way of capturing great video on the go.

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