Dos and Don’ts of Recording Video on Your Phone

The number one pet peeve of watching a cell phone video is the black bars on either side. This is easily avoidable. It’s due to the fact that people naturally hold their phone vertically. This is how your brain has been trained to make phone calls, type texts and emails, and surf the web.

Think for a moment. If you go to YouTube to stream a video, which direction do you hold your phone? You flip it on its side to a horizontal orientation. Voila! This is how you should be recording video to avoid the dreaded black bars. Horizontal, horizontal, horizontal. I cannot emphasize it enough.

Here’s a nifty little trick to hold your phone in a way that leaves your thumb free to press “record” and “stop.” While holding your phone horizontally, cradle it on your pinky finger. Place your index finger on the top of the phone. Your middle and ring fingers support the back of the phone. Now, your thumb is free to press the button…or challenge your friend to a thumb wrestling match.

Holding the camera steady is super important to make for a pleasant viewing experience. If you don’t have a steady hand, see if there is a surface you can rest your elbow on. Sometimes even placing your other hand, wrist, or arm underneath can help. Alternatively, invest in a tripod. You can find very inexpensive options online.

Smartphones have the capability to shoot very high-quality video nowadays. They have come a long way from the days of grainy images. Many professional news organizations even use cell phones and tablets in place of expensive camera equipment. You need to create the right environment to take advantage of the creative power that’s been placed in the palm of your hand.

Find a well-lit place to record video. Especially if you are uploading to a social media site directly from your phone, the color-correcting options are limited on mobile. You’d need to edit on professional editing equipment on a computer, which the general consumer doesn’t have access to. Do your best to find good lighting and avoid shadows.

Audio is just as important as lighting. Record video in a quiet location, so you can clearly hear your interview subject without interference of background noise. Listen closely. Do you hear dogs barking or horns honking? If so, find a different spot. There are many instances where natural sound helps to tell your story. Use your best judgement, but always, always make sure the person speaking can be heard without the listener struggling.

Video is a visual medium. Make sure when framing your subject to leave a little room above their head so you aren’t chopping off the top of their hair. For a close-up, zoom out enough to show their shoulders and chest. We don’t need to see every pore on their face.

Pay close attention to the background. You don’t want it to be too plain. A blank wall is boring. But, you don’t want it to be too busy or distracting. A plant can be nice, but make sure it doesn’t look like it is growing out of your interview subject’s head. Put the planter off to the side or have your interviewee step to the side of the tree. Same goes with fountains. You don’t want water spraying out of the top of someone’s scalp.