How To Shoot Great Videos On Your Smartphone
Great videos should tell great stories – no matter the length or equipment at your fingertips. Resident smartphone buff, Dexter Kim, reveals his tips from a baking paper diffuser to 4k and framing.By Buffet
If you feel like you’re getting left behind in the fast-forward world of video and the only video camera you own is on your phone, then you’ve clicked on the right link thingy. Ciao, I’m Dexter, Buffet’s visual assistant and photographer. I spend most of my days filming / grading / editing photos and videos and as such have a few Things To Say about this subject.
As motion plays a bigger role on social platforms like TikTok and Instagram, you may be looking at ways to work more into your weekly content mix. At Buffet, we’re finding the most success currently comes from a mix of lo-fi and high-production stills and video. People (such as you and I) like seeing slick, high-production campaign videos, but are just as likely to double-tap for a juicy, single-frame dish vid shot on someone’s phone between services. The TLDR? Three-figure campaign films have their place (we live to bring these to life!) but so do videos that take a few minutes to shoot on a smartphone.
I’m gonna show you how. Hot tips incomingggg.
Set iPhone to 4K
Let’s get the boring basics out of the way first. If you feel like high-quality content is completely out of your reach because you don’t own a fancy camera, fear not. If you own an iPhone that was released after 2018, you can record your videos in 4K resolution. Did you know? Basically, this means that, indeed, your smartphone can record at the same setting as my super expensive, professional digital camera 🥲! How good.
** Don’t worry my Android friends, almost all Android devices released after 2018 can also record 4K. Make sure you check your settings and we’re off to shooting! **
Let’s start by going to ’Setting’ > ‘Camera’ > ‘Record Video’.
Here you’ll find a few different options. Whoa, lots of jargon ahead. What we’re looking for is ‘4K at 30FPS’. This ensures you’re recording at the highest resolution possible, resulting in the best quality video possible. I know what you’re thinking - ‘But why do videos on Instagram look so poor?’ Both Instagram and TikTok like to compress your video as much as possible to make them play smoothly when scrolling. Despite its compression factor, we still recommend shooting your footage at the highest quality possible, because it gives you more room to edit your videos in the post, should you choose to do so.
Personally, I recommend shooting your video with the native camera app on iPhone. It’s easy to use, it’s familiar and most importantly it takes full advantage of the hardware that no third-party apps can. However, if you want to have more specific control over the camera (such as shutter speed, iSO, exposure compensation), look into downloading a pro-level video recording app. I like Pro Camera by Moment.
Lighting, It’s Everything
Your camera is ready for some action, now let’s talk about lighting your subject.
We always say natural light is the best light and it’s true. Find a spot in the restaurant or your home that has an abundance of sunbeams. If possible, avoid shooting a video in the dark as it’ll affect the overall quality. That said, harsh sunlight often isn’t the best light to work with either - we like to play around with slightly diffused light - such as sunlight coming through a frosted window, curtain or diffused through tree leaves like this. Softer lighting on your subject creates smoother, more consistently lit footage.
When in doubt, incorporate these makeshift lighting tools:
If harsh sunlight is all you have (and there’s no fancy studio equipment on hand) you can try diffusing materials like baking paper, or even linen cloth or a curtain! Get creative with different ways to defuse light and cast shadows. Personal faves: coloured perspex, cellophane and extra thin drawing paper.
If you want to take your lighting game to the next level, try using external lights! Using fun coloured lights like we use at Ezra, to mimic the pink hue cast by their neon sign, is a great way to add interesting pops of colour to your scene.
Keep it short, keep it catchy
My boss, Nikki To always says, ‘jump cuts! Jump cuts!’ and I swear by it too.
If you ever count how long each shot is on social media videos, you’ll be pleasantly surprised that many shots are less than one second long. If there’s no action? It doesn’t need to be shown. Keep your footage moving. Keep your footage short. Don’t let your viewers get bored, or worse, scroll on!
If you feel like long, complex Reels are too much effort and you just don’t have the time, you could try micro-videos (read more about creating micro-content here). As a rule of thumb, they’re shorter than five seconds, can be a single frame or a few stitched together. It’s easy as snapping a picture, great for engagement and really helps build an extended visual identity.
Groundwork is done — to the editing room!
Now, you’ve got all this footage of your favourite things. But how do you put them all together? Video editing capabilities in Instagram and TikTok are easy to use and good enough to stitch something together on the fly. But if you wish to dig a little deeper, we like to keep these apps up our sleeve.
Oh how much I love this app. It makes colour grading your footage an absolute breeze. VSCO has been around since the beginning of mobile photography and has brewed amazing film simulations and perfected it. Its ability to edit short video clips and frame overlays is a great plus for getting creative with your footage. Highly recommend. Find it here.
Premiere Pro Rush
If you’ve ever dipped your toes in the world of videography, you’ve probably heard of Premiere Pro by Adobe - a powerful desktop software for profesh video editing. Spoiler: it is also available on your smartphone. You can add music to clips, transitions, the possibilities are endless. Edit your footage on Premiere Pro Rush then bring it over to your desktop if you wish. Or you could upload it directly to your feed. Amazing. This is what I use on a daily basis if I ever need to edit any video clips on the go. Check it out here.
Ready, Set, Action. What do I shoot now?
Great videos should tell great stories – no matter the length or equipment at your fingertips. It goes without saying that the world is your oyster when it comes to looking for things to shoot. Literally, you could film an oyster. Get out there and explore! Get shucking! Experiment, spend time on it. Find your style. Film that popular dish at your favourite restaurant, or that new food craze in Chinatown. When it comes to food, anything that shines, stretches or oozes is going to be great for engagement. Pull apart your gooey toastie. Slurp that Ramen. Get close up on sorbet’s glisten. Oh, and before I forget, capture that ASMR while you’re at it.
Need help coming up with a concept for your next motion campaign that slices like a hot knife through cultured butter? Or perhaps an Instagram Reels shoot. Let’s chat.
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