As Christmas draws closer, many of us will be taking photos and shooting videos on our phones.
Follow our shooting tips to make your home movies even better.
Record in landscape
Filming in portrait mode can seem natural because that’s generally how we hold and use our phones. But it’s no good if you want to share it on any online portal or cast it to your TV. That’s because you’ll get vertical black borders surrounding your thin-looking clip.
So shoot in landscape mode – holding the phone is on its side - is essential. You might have to stand a little further from your subject, but it gives you a wider angle to fit more of the scene in your shot.
Keep a steady hand
There’s nothing more distracting than wobbly video, motion blur and out-of-focus subjects. One way to steady your shot is to hold your phone with both hands.
It’ll help you cut the amount of movement - but take care not to cover the lens or the microphone by mistake.
Many high-end smartphones, like the Sony Xperia X, have stabilisation technology to help reduce shake.
Keep movement smooth
Capturing moving subjects isn’t easy. So you’ll need to keep your camera movements smooth. One way to do that is by moving your body rather than just your arms - keep your elbows locked to your side and rotate your body instead. Or try using a tripod.
Take care with zooming
The digital zoom on most smartphone video cameras enlarges the pixels, which can diminish the quality. So try not to use it unless you really need to.
If you can, get closer to your subject instead. The alternative is pixelated, noisy video you won’t want to watch anyway. Have you ever had to sit through a friends’ video shot at a concert? That’s what you want to avoid.
Experiment to find the best light
It’s important to try to find the best light for your imagery, so move around and make use of natural light if possible. In daylight, try to make sure the sun is lighting your scene rather than shining directly into the lens.
Avoid the flashlight
On most phone cameras, the flash can double up as a light to illuminate subjects when recording video. But it can be too strong and make it look unnatural. So save it for when you can't find any natural light.
Manually adjust exposure and focus
Many smartphone cameras feature a tap to focus setting and a way to adjust the exposure (controlling how much light the sensor lets in). Both methods can help with lighting your subjects correctly.
On an iPhone, for example, you can long press on the focal point to lock the focus and exposure.
Use the time lapse setting
Most high-end smartphones now have a time lapse setting, which lets you condense several minutes or even hours of footage in to a much shorter clip. This can be a great way to capture interesting road trips, tidal scenes or sunrises and sunsets. Here it’s important to lock the exposure (as we explained above) to make sure the lighting stays consistent.
Protect yourself from the elements
If it’s possible you should use your body to shield your phone from the wind, because it’ll ruin the audio. Position yourself in a way that stops the breeze getting to your phone’s microphone at the bottom of the handset.
Practical tips for your smartphone
Shoot at lower quality
4K and Ultra HD video are becoming more common on our phones. Which is great, but the resulting clips take up much more space on your phone. You can save space by shooting at lower quality.
Don’t eat up all your data
Upload large video files over wi-fi so you don’t use up all your mobile data allowance.
Trim your footage
Most phone cameras offer the ability to whip off the awkward start and end of clips, giving the video a more professional feel.
Use an editing app
You can use a specialised editing app to pull more than one clip together. Many will also let you add fades and transitions as well as a soundtrack. Try Apple’s own iMovie for iOS and KineMaster for Android.
Bring a spare battery
Shooting video does as much to drain battery life as any activity, so come prepared. If your phone has a removable battery, bring a spare. Otherwise, think about investing in a portable battery pack.